Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Willoughbys

Book List Review
*Starred Review* The ever-versatile Lowry offers what she calls an old-fashioned story, complete with stock elements such as a baby left on a doorstep and a nanny who transforms her initially ill-behaved charges. Sly humor and a certain deadpan zaniness give literary conventions an ironic twist, with hilarious results. The Willoughby family consists of bossy elder brother Tim, twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, little sister Jane, and their parents, who are despicable. Mrs. Willoughby insists that the twins share one sweater, and Mr. Willoughby abruptly stops reading aloud Hansel and Gretel one evening because the mother in the story has given him an idea abandon the children! The parents take a vacation and, while away, sell their house, leaving the children and nanny to shift for themselves. Meanwhile, the children plot how to become orphans, like children in an old-fashioned book. Many are the ways used by children's novelists to get their protagonists' parents out of the way, but Lowry's solution here is particularly inventive and wickedly amusing. A glossary humorously defines words seldom seen in newfangled books (the new nanny: villainous, lugubrious, or odious?), and an annotated bibliography comments on 13 old-fashioned children's books referenced within the story. Great fun.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2008 Booklist

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