Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

I love Lois Lowry, it's no secret. Many a time I have said I want to be just like her when I grow up. One of my greatest moments in life was when I got to give her a ride home from Vermont to Massachusetts in my little car. I think she wanted to sleep, but I, being the quiet, shy, silent type, would not let her sleep a wink as I peppered her with questions about the writing life.

However, lately her books have seemed a bit, well, grim, to me. Depressing even, that I have to ask who her intended audience is. I love her writing, I love her style, she is truly gifted, but I have been worried about my hero.

So enter The Willoughbys. Lowry knocked this one out of the park in every way. I loved the cover on sight, with its Edward Gorey-esque style, designed by Lowry herself. And I love the name of the family, bringing in Austen references of the foolish player from Sense and Sensibility. But what Lowry does best is treat her readers as smart thinkers, something often missed in children's books today. This book is a satire, it is not as what it appears; it is not simply the story of a family of abandoned children trying to off their parents any more than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a kid going to a candy store.

The Willoughby children are four smart children born to the most unfortunate parents. Forced to endure the same names, share the same sweater, and dealing with general neglect, the children are not too heartbroken when their parents decide to take an extended vacation--with out the children. So the four Willoughby children declaire themselves orphans, much like their literary heros, Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna. But, to their suprise, they must endure an odious nanny, an impending house sale, an auspicious neighbor, and many other adventures that will lead them with a most unexpected family.

An enjoyable read for the Lemony Snickett crowd.

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