Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Willoughbys - Lois Lowry

Summary: "Shouldn't we be orphans?" Barnaby B asked.
The Willoughby children were seated on the front steps playing a complicated game to which only Tim knew the rules.
"Why?" asked Barnaby A, moving down a step because the rules said he must if he asked a question, and of course "Why?" was a question.
"Because," Barnaby B explained, "we are like children in an old-fashioned book. And--"
"Mostly they are orphans," Jane said. She moved down two steps because she had interrupted, which was against the rules, and now she was the lowest of the four.
"Worthy and deserving orphans," Barnaby B added. "Winsome too," added Jane...
"A sea voyage sometimes produces orphans," Barnaby A pointed out.
"There are often pirates. Or icebergs."
"And sea serpents," his twin added, "even though I don't entirely believe in sea serpents."
"I believe in giant squids," Jane said with a shudder.
"Good point," Tim acknowledged. "And piranhas. Are our parents planning a vacation, by any chance? On a ship?" (Summary from back of the book and image from

My Review: I really enjoy Lois Lowry's books. Right now we're reading The Giver in my 8th grade classes and I thought it would be nice to pick up another of her books to suggest to the kids if they like her style. I'd already read Gathering Blue, The Messenger, Gossamer, and Number the Stars. I had this on my shelves at school and figured I'd give this one a shot.

This is a simple feel-good book. The aspects I liked were the vocabulary it introduces and the alluded to stories. The last pages of the book have a glossary explaining more difficult vocabulary for children along with asides from the author making connections to life. It's pretty cute and, if children would read it, I'd guess helpful. It also has a mini bibliography containing the books mentioned with a brief description.

Lowry has a way of making families in her books feel safe and special. The Willoughby parents in the beginning of the novel are the opposite of this and she does that on purpose. She vividly paints a picture of how parents should feel and act towards children and in this story she does it by showing both versions, good and bad. By the end of the book all is right with the world and you're back to the comforting families Lowry is so good at writing.

You follow four children through their adjustment period of being abandoned by their parents, their acquisition of a nanny in their lives, becoming homeless, and becoming orphans. It's done in a whimsical way, and no, I don't know any other way to explain how this doesn't come across as traumatic or disturbing. You'll just have to read the book to understand. As the children go through this you get to watch them grow and mature with the correct mentoring.

I got a little tired of the 'an old-fashioned' mentioning. Multiple times when the characters were either trying to make a decision or when Lowry was explaining the characters actions the reasons would go back to the characters being old-fashioned. Why keep hitting the old-fashioned bit over and over again? I'm not totally sure. It's a cute story for kids regardless.

Rating: 3.5 Stars--probably 4 stars for children.

Sum it up: A quirky story with a happy ending.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I picked this one up at the library recently but never got around to reading it before the due date. I'll have to grab it again next time I am there. Thanks for the review.


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