Sunday, June 22, 2008

Book Review: The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry


Oh the power of bloggers! I read several Willoughbys reviews on 48 Hr. Reading Challenge participants’ blogs (Becky’s Book Reviews’ is here and Jen Robinson’s is here) and knew I had to have it and read it immediately. I also read the 5 Randoms’ Reasons to Read this Book and The Well Read Child’s very enthusiastic review. Lemony Snicket was mentioned a lot and I love Lemony Snicket (he also gave it high praise). I actually went out and special ordered this from a bookstore here in Frankfurt so I could have it as soon as possible. So yeah – high expectations galore.

Lowry’s book reads like a spoof of Snicket, with clueless and odious adults, droll humor and vocabulary words that are defined for the reader in fun ways (one of my favorite things about the Snickett books). For example on page 50: “Mr. Melanoff lived in squalor. Squalor is a situation in which there is moldy food in the refrigerator, mouse droppings are everywhere, the wastebaskets are overflowing… There is a very bad smell to squalor.” She expands on the vocab building idea by offering a glossary in the back of the book.

It is also very much a spoof of “old fashioned’ classic children’s books like Mary Poppins (a nanny is hired) and The Bobbsey Twins (a baby is found on the Willoughby’s doorstep). An amusing bibliography of these is offered as well. The tone is even more absurd than even Snicket, especially concerning the Willoughby parents. The postcards they sent home from their dangerous vacation spots had me in stitches.

Don’t read this for character development though. There is none. The 4 Willoughby children start out annoying and stay annoying. The oldest one, Tim, especially got on my nerves with his bossiness. I know this was a stylistic choice on Lowry’s part, but it keeps it from attaining “perfect book” status from me, and if I were giving a rating, it would warrant at least a half star reduction.

Despite this quibble, I did really, really like it. The plot is very silly but fun and there are tons of quotable passages. I will definitely pass this one on to all my friends who are Snicket devotees.

4 comments:

J. Kaye Oldner said...

I found several copies being processed at our library, so I'll request the first available one.

I checked Amazon too. This book has high ratings!

daniel said...

sounds great-i will read it. good for my vocabulary build up

Alea said...

I love Lemony Snicket's books so I will definitely be checking this out. Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

Hi Lenore, I was hoping to get your contact information so I could send you an ARC for my book. Can you email me at pjhoover_books (AT) yahoo (DOT) com?

Thanks!