OH Lois Lowry. When I was little I loved her Anastasia series, in college I read Number the Stars, and in book club, The Giver. What a range of successful books! Of course she's written a million more. And, I loved this one too.
The Willoughbys is a fun story about four "old fashioned" kids who are very aware of the archetype of orphans in literature. The whole thing is written satirically, but its really light and fun! I think it is hilarious, and my 10-year-old loved it too.
There are four Willoughby siblings. The oldest is Tim, and he creates these games that his siblings play unwillingly.
"The Willoughby children were seated on the front steps playing a complicated game to which only Tim knew the rules." It involves having to move down a step for asking a question, being a dodo, or disagreeing. Another game is this abstract awarding or deducting of points. We have a running joke about that with our kids, so I thought it was especially funny.
Next are twin brothers who share the same name and have only one sweater between them. When they mention to their mom that they might like another sweater, she says, "It's disgusting the way children today all want their own sweaters." At the same time she is knitting a sweater for the cat. And finally, sweet little Jane who gets the brunt of it all. When her parents leave them with a nanny, they forget to mention they even have a 4th child.
I love this sentiment, "Let us not waste time with tears and useless expostulations," Nanny told them. "What if this were a story in a book with a well-worn maroon leather binding? What would good old-fashioned people do in this situation?" Awesome.
I loved how Lois Lowry uses big words, but includes her own glossary in the back. I wish she mentioned it at the beginning because I bet kids won't look at it. Here's an excerpt:
"MALEVOLENT means wanting to harm others or having an evil influence. Even though if you glance quickly at the word, it may look like "male violent," this word has nothing to do with males. It is actually pronounced mah-LEV-oh-lent. Some females are very malevolent."
She also includes a little bibliography of "Books of the past that are heavy on piteous but appealing orphans, ill-tempered and stingy relatives, magnanimous benefactors, and transformations wrought by winsome children."
Read this, you'll like it.