The Willoughbys uses a lot of dark humor. The four children wish their parents would die so they can be orphans like ones in books. And their parents find their kids annoying and plot to get rid of them. In the end, Mr. and Mrs. meet their demise on vacation. I found much of the humor harmless and think most kids would enjoy it. However, I disliked the way the oldest sibling, Tim, acted like a tyrant and belittled Jane by telling her she wouldn’t ever do anything important because she’s a girl. It’s all meant to be funny, and clearly everyone has flaws in this story. But I felt Tim just wasn’t funny or cute. He begins to mend his ways in the later half but his attitude towards women is never directly addressed. For this reason, Tim’s character never sat right with me. I appreciated the “big words” throughout the story. And the glossary is there for kids to learn what words like “surreptitious” and “obsequious” mean. There are several references to classics about orphans and nannies. I think I’ll have to read some of them. A cute story but The Willoughbys was a bit of a letdown.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2008 Recommended Age: 8 and up
Rating: 2.5 Stars Pages: 157, 174 with Glossary and Bibliography