Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Lowry, Lois. 2008. THE WILLOUGHBYS. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780618979745 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]
Lois Lowry presents a clever parody of “old-fashioned” works of children’s literature with her tale of the four Willoughby children. Tim, Barnaby A, Barnaby B, and Jane belong to a family resembling those of classic books. Their tale includes the usual cast of characters; the neglectful parents, an “odious” nanny, and a wealthy recluse. When the children create a plan to become “worthy and winsome orphans,” their parents gladly accept the danger-filled trip around the world as an excuse to abandon their offspring. Thanks to Nanny’s capable guidance, a conveniently placed baby, and a generous benefactor, the Willoughbys manage to find their “old-fashioned” happy ending.
Lowry’s tongue-in-check writing style will be popular with middle school students. The humorous and witty story line is sure to grab readers’ attention as they follow the improbable chain of events so common in earlier works of children’s literature. This book will definitely lead to conversations comparing modern works of literature with the classics that are still well liked today.
Observant readers will enjoy identifying the literary references in Lowry’s adaptation of classic children’s books. This novel would make an excellent literature circle selection, allowing students to make comparisons with their favorite “old-fashioned” stories, like THE JUNGLE BOOK or THE SECRET GARDEN. Readers could write their own parodies as an entertaining extension activity.
Other parodies or adaptations of classic literature:
Birdsall, Jeanne. THE PENDERWICKS: A SUMMER TALE OF FOUR SISTERS, TWO RABBITS, AND A VERY INTERESTING BOY. ISBN 9780440420477
Snicket, Lemony. THE COMPLETE WRECK: A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, BOOKS 1-13. Ill. by Brett Helquist. ISBN 9780061119064
By Kimberly C. Kinnaird