“The Willoughbys” is a delightful children’s book which takes all of our accepted mores and turns them inside out! It is a spoof on life which lets us laugh at ourselves. It is a combination of The Sound of Music, Pippi Longstocking and Hansel and Gretel, all rolled into one.
Instead of a happy home with a warm hearth and nourishing meals, the Willoughby children live in a home in which selfish parents dote on themselves instead of their children. The children tease each other with the older preying on the weaker younger ones. Their parents dislike them and they dislike their parents. They hatch a plan to get rid of their parents even as their parents decide to take a trip, sell their home and abandon the children. Their are many unusual adventures and mishaps.
A baby is found on their doorstep and the mother doesn’t want it so the children deposit it on the doorstep of a mansion. The parent’s behavior is less than stellar. The grieving owner of the mansion finds that the child breathes new life into his own sad existence so it turns into an opportunity rather than a burden. A nanny is engaged by the Willoughby parents without checking her qualifications but she turns out to be better at taking care of the children and the home than they were.
Although the concepts in the book deal with abandonment, dysfunctional families, danger and death, there is a happy ending, but it comes about in the strangest of ways. The book covers many negative concepts with a gentle humor, which makes them more acceptable. There is a comical glossary at the end of the book to help explain some of the more difficult words used. Although it is recommended for ages 8-12, it might be more appropriate to read it aloud with a child so that difficult concepts that are trivialized, can be better explained.