The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys is a humorous take on an old fashioned family.  The book is reviewed by Melissa G. at Sweet on Books.

What You Need to Know:

• Although very different from her other books, Lois Lowry always seems to deliver a story that makes us think.
• There are many references to other literary works.
• Your reader will find great vocabulary words throughout and a funny glossary in the back.
• There are several references to death, including the kids hoping to get rid of their parents in a terrible accident, but all in a humorous way.
• The kids – and adults too, actually – can be quite nasty to each other.
• Readers shouldn’t take the characters or events in this parody too seriously.


Lois Lowry’s clever parody of an “old-fashioned” family will entertain young readers, as long as they know what they’re getting into when they open this book. The kids want to get rid of their parents, the parents try to ditch their kids, babies are abandoned and an exaggerated rudeness is commonplace. The Willoughby parents are “irascible” and “indolent” and not too happy about having to care for their four children. The kids, in turn, decide that they would fare better as orphans, as that seems to have been the case in many “old fashioned” stories so they plot to kill off their parents. They encourage their parents to set off on an adventurous trip and secretly hope for a fatal accident.

The parents, in keeping with their wicked ways, hire a nanny and leave without so much as a wave goodbye. Before their parents leave, the Willoughby children find a baby on their doorstep and when they tell their mother, she instructs them to get rid of it. She’s the same woman who is described as having once read a book but found it “distasteful” because it had adjectives – I’m still laughing at this thought, especially since Lowry clearly loves them! The children leave the baby with a local tycoon who, while extremely wealthy, is currently living a shabby existence as he mourns the loss of his wife and child. The story of these two families, and how their lives collide, will take readers on an interesting journey of their own.

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