Posted by: kidsbooksreviews | May 7, 2008

The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry

If you’re the sort that recalls with fondness old-fashioned tales of plucky orphans surviving against all odds and making the world a better place in the process, this is not a book for you. If, instead, you are the type that considers such tales “saccharine” instead of “sweet”, then you will not only love The Willoughbys, but you will also find yourself reading portions of it aloud to any unfortunate soul you can capture the attention of long enough. Four children, who describe themselves as “children from an old-fashioned book”, decide that they should be orphans to better suit the description. Their parents, on the other hand, have decided that they’d much prefer to be like the parents in Hansel and Gretel, and attempt to rid themselves of their tiresome children by taking off on an extended vacation and putting their home up for sale, children included.

This book could be used to teach many things, and children who like Lemony Snicket will adore this book. Dry and dark humor, parodies, cliches, and satire can all be introduced using this book. The book also uses an abundance of new vocabulary words (some handily addressed in the glossary, which defines the words with the same sense of humor the rest of the book is written in), and references many classic books (also handily summarized in the Bibliography, which describes them as “Books of the past that are heavy on piteous but appealing orphans, ill-tempered and stingy relatives, magnanimous benefactors, and transformations wrought by winsome children.”) Which, of course, allows for plenty of text-to-text connections, as well.

Approximate reading level of this book is mid fifth grade level.

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