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Friday, June 27, 2008

THE WILLOUGHBYS written by Lois Lowry

The Willoughbys
The four Willoughby children are part of an old-fashioned sort of family. They set out to become "deserving orphans", encouraging their parents to take a treacherous trip around the world, that will, hopefully, result in the parents never returning. There are many references to various classics in children's literature and use of very long and advanced vocabulary words. This results in an instructive glossary and bibliography at the end of the book to clarify what is meant in various passages. (Thank you Ms. Lowry - very instructive.)

The tale begins with a baby, in a basket, left on the Willoughby doorstep. The baby - a girl with lovely curls, dressed in a pink sweater with a note pinned to it. The note says the mother left the baby because "it looks as if a happy, loving family lives here, prosperous enough to feed another child."

Nothing could be further than the truth. The Willoughby parents did not like thier children, and their children did not like them. The eldest was Timothy (12 years old), then came the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, who were 10 years old. Thier names were shortened to A and B. The youngest was a girl, Jane, just 6 1/2 years, and usually forgotten.

Anyway, the Willoughby children take the baby, basket and all, put it in a wagon and leave it on the porch of another house, a large mansion belonging to a meloncholy tycoon whose wife and son are missing in an avalanche in Switzerland for the last six years. The Willoughby children reencounter the baby, slightly older, later in the story.

The Willoughby parents come up with a way to get rid of their children, inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel. It all comes together perfectly in the end, with references along the way to various loved, and very old-fashioned, children's books.

A very different, entertaining story from Lois Lowry. Fun to read; with villians, nannies, long lost family, romance, and sweet treats along the way.

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