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  • Published: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2008.
  • Year Published: 2008
  • Description: 174 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Book

Reading Level

  • Lexile: 790

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 0618979743 (hardcover) :
  • 9780618979745 (hardcover) :


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The Willoughbys

by Lowry, Lois.

There are currently 2 available

Where To Find It

Call number: J Fiction / Lowry, Lois

Available Copies: Downtown Youth, Traverwood Youth

Additional Details

"Walter Lorraine books."

In this tongue-in-cheek take on classic themes in children's literature, the four Willoughby children set about to become "deserving orphans" after their neglectful parents embark on a treacherous around-the-world adventure, leaving them in the care of an odious nanny.

Community Reviews

Fun for all

A spoof of traditional children's stories. Love the glossary and the twins--Barnaby A and Barnaby B who share a sweater.

A meticulously winsome story!

This is a delightfully quirky book that is definitely written for a young age group but would be a fun book to read with your child. There are lots of hilarious tongue-in-cheek comments that parents/older reader will love. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this book!

Parody of "old-fashioned" novels

In The Willoughbys, Lois Lowry gives readers a playful romp that is a parody of “old-fashioned” novels. Written in a style that is reminiscent of classic children’s literature, The Willoughbys focuses on the four Willoughby children: Tim, Barnaby A and Barnaby B (twins), and demure little Jane. Throughout the book, the children find themselves in situations that are identical to those of classic tales such as Hansel and Gretel, Pollyanna, Little Women, and many others. The comedic part in all of this is that the children actually point out the parallels between their lives and those of the characters from the classic tales. The story really takes off when the children and parents simultaneously devise plans to get rid of each other. The parents leave the children with Nanny and try to sell the house and the children send their parents on a vacation of life-threatening activities so they can become “deserving and winsome” orphans. As the plot develops everything that has happened from the arrival of the baby leads up to an interweaving of various sub-plots. We learn the story of the candy inventor, who tragically lost his family in an avalanche near the Alps years ago…or did he? We also follow the dangerous adventures of the Willoughby parents.

Ingeniously crafted and ridiculously humorous, The Willoughbys is a delight. Many parts of the story are predictable, but they are supposed to be since most of the book is based on various stories of classic children’s literature. There are vocabulary words that many young (and even some adult) readers may not be familiar with. However, the author has provided a glossary in the back of the book that light-heartedly explains the meaning of each of these words. There is also a bibliography of the titles and authors of the classic works referenced in the novel that could help point young readers in the direction of those classic books. This novel is best suited for middle-grade readers, and would appeal to those who enjoy A Series of Unfortunate Events. Recommended for grades 4 - 7.

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