The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys

4.3 54
by Lois Lowry
     
 

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The Willoughby's—Timothy; his twin brothers, Barnaby A and Barnaby B; and their little sister, Jane—are old-fashioned children who adore old-fashioned adventures. Unfortunately, the Willoughby parents are not very fond of their children, and the truth is that the siblings are not too keen on their parents either. Little do the Willoughby kids know that… See more details below

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Overview

The Willoughby's—Timothy; his twin brothers, Barnaby A and Barnaby B; and their little sister, Jane—are old-fashioned children who adore old-fashioned adventures. Unfortunately, the Willoughby parents are not very fond of their children, and the truth is that the siblings are not too keen on their parents either. Little do the Willoughby kids know that their neglectful mother and father are hatching an evil plan to get rid of them! Not to worry—these resourceful adventurers have a few plans of their own. But they have no idea what lies ahead in their quest to rid themselves of their ghastly parents and live happily ever after.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This strange little novel is a take-off on famous "orphan" novels such as Pollyanna, Oliver, James and the Giant Peach, and Hansel and Gretel. It is about a family of four children, including the eldest Timothy, twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and the youngest, Jane, and their parents. It is a twisted tale of parents ignoring their children and eventually trying to get rid of them, and children who dislike their parents so much that they wish they were orphans. The siblings are rather nasty to each other, (especially Timothy), but they stick together in their desire to rid themselves of their parents. The story involves the children finding a baby left on their doorstep and their parents refusing to take the baby in. The siblings then leave the baby on the doorstep of a miserly neighbor who lives in a rundown mansion. The baby changes the life of the neighbor, the parents go off on a round-the-world trip in an effort to rid themselves of their children, a nanny comes to take care of the children, and everyone's life changes for the better. It's Monty Python for children, with a dark side, so parents and teachers beware. References to other orphan stories appear in the text and may need some explanation for young readers. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.
VOYA - Patti Sylvester Spencer
Who knew that this Newbery Award-winning author longed to follow in the footsteps of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl? Her latest slip of a volume introduces four soon-to-be orphans-Timothy, twins A and B, and Jane-whose incompetent parents rival and then surpass Dahl's Matilda's. The children are mistreated; they in turn mistreat each other and a foundling infant. A nanny proves common-sensical and a wealthy inventor proves to be an ideal parent. The parody of old-fashioned storytelling is wonderfully farfetched, quite funny at times, and sporadically unsettling-the traditional recipe for compelling orphan drama. Lowry's own delightful pen-and-ink sketches introduce each of the twenty-one chapters and epilogue. Like Daniel Handler, she pushes reader vocabulary but with a heavier hand. A ten-page glossary (for words like lugubrious, malevolent, and obfuscate) seems to shift the tone of the novel with stereotypical examples and undercuts the general playfulness of the story. The glossary is uneven at best. Allusions and direct references to traditional orphan or orphan-like novels abound. Lowry includes a limited annotated bibliography to identify references as characters compare themselves and others to Ragged Dick, Pollyanna, or Mary Lennox. Perhaps once finished with this fast, fun read, some students will comb library shelves for really old-fashioned stories, sometimes inaccessible to contemporary, young middle schoolers. Reviewer: Patti Sylvester Spencer
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7- Timothy, twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and Jane Willoughby live in an imposing Victorian house. Their uncaring parents would like to get rid of them, and the feeling is mutual. The adults go off on vacation, leaving the young Willoughbys in the care of a nanny, and try to sell the house in absentia. This leads to some of the more hilarious moments as prospective buyers arrive and the children disguise themselves as lamp shades and coat hangers. The day a baby is left on their doorstep, events are set in motion that bring about some desired changes and an "all's well that ends well" resolution. Lowry continually reminds readers that the characters and events in this story are meant to recall those found in "old fashioned" children's books, a bibliography of which she includes at the end. The plot is understandably dependent on coincidence, but the ultimate effect is to render the characters emotionally distant, leaving readers with little empathy for them. However, the glossary of terms such as "lugubrious" and "obsequious" at the end of the book is absolutely choice, and Lowry's cover and interior illustrations show that she has an entirely untapped talent. Children will enjoy the story's absurd humor while adults may be put off by its dark elements. Lowry is never afraid to expand her boundaries as a writer, and this book, even if somewhat flawed, belongs in most collections.-Tim Wadham, Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ

Kirkus Reviews
With this fey venture into kiddie Gothic, the august two-time Newbery winner and author of the beloved Anastasia Krupnik series proves that a writer can always reinvent herself. Lacing her narrative with references to classics from the hoariest corners of the canon, Lowry channels her inner Snicket to great effect. The Willoughby children-Timothy, Barnaby, Barnaby and Jane-do "the kinds of things that children in old-fashioned stories do." Sort of. When they find a baby abandoned on their doorstep, they re-abandon her on a neighbor's doorstep. And when they realize that their parents want to get rid of them, too, they develop a plan to do away with them first. Abetted by their Nanny (who is "not one bit like that fly-by-night [Mary Poppins]") and taking inspiration from their storybooks, they thwart their parents' plans and, via a series of increasingly absurd plot twists, find themselves happily rid of their ghastly parents and reunited with the once-abandoned baby. Readers who are willing to give themselves up entirely to the sly foolishness will relish this sparklingly smart satire, which treats them with collegial familiarity. (snort-inducing glossary) (Fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher

"The tone of this darkly dry pastiche is consistently witty, and it's chock-full of accessible parodic references to...classic children's texts...Lowry crafts a tidy plot."--The Bulletin, starred review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385737760
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
03/23/2010
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
251,693
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Nanny and the Willoughbys were out for a walk.
This was something that old-fashioned families did from time to time, to expose themselves to invigorating fresh air. Nanny had donned her blue cape, which was the official uniform for nannies.
“Walk briskly, children,” said Nanny, “and swing your arms.” They did so.
“Skip, if you like,” Nanny said. “Skipping is very healthful.” “What is skipping?” Jane asked.
“Yes, what is skipping?” asked the twins.
“It’s like this, dolts,”Tim told them, and he skipped ahead of them to demonstrate.
“No more saying of the word dolt,” Nanny announced.“I dislike it.” “What about dodo?” Jane asked.
“Well, let’s allow dodo for now,” Nanny said after thinking it over. “If someone does something really stupid, it is permissible to call that person a dodo.
“And,” she added, looking at Tim, who had returned, “if you think that was skipping, you are a dodo.This is skipping.” She demonstrated, skipping to the corner of the block with her cape flying behind her. She turned and beckoned to the children, and each of them skipped toward her one by one. Nanny gave some further instructions—a little more left foot,Tim; no timidity, go flat out, A; good job, much better than before, B; and a pat on the back for Jane, who stumbled and skinned her knee but was heroically not crying.
Now, having walked for several blocks and skipped for the last one, the children found that they were on a familiar street.They had not been back to this street since the day they had trudged here hauling a wagon containing a basket with a baby in it. Tim nudged Barnaby A and nodded meaningfully toward the mansion that loomed ahead. Both of the twins gave nervous glances but then looked away and concentrated on remarks about the quality of the asphalt in the street and a particularly odd-shaped cloud in the sky. Jane fell silent and had a sad look. She had liked the baby, actually, though when its hair was cropped she had found it homely. From time to time she had missed it and wondered about it.
Nanny skipped ahead, not noticing that a hush had fallen upon the children.
“The windows are repaired,” Barnaby B pointed out in a whisper.
“And the cat has been fed,” his twin noticed. “It was thin before, but now it’s pudgy.” “Someone has mowed the lawn,”Tim observed.
“Shhhh,” said Jane suddenly. “I hear a giggle.” They stood still, the four of them, and after a moment Nanny returned. She had skipped the entire length of the block, assuming the children were behind her. Now she came back to see why they had stopped. “The important thing in terms of fresh-air intake,” Nanny said to them, “is continuity!
If you stop, you lose your continuity.Why ever are you standing about like dodos? You are breathing stagnant air.”

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From the Publisher
"The tone of this darkly dry pastiche is consistently witty, and it's chock-full of accessible parodic references to...classic children's texts...Lowry crafts a tidy plot."—The Bulletin, starred review

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