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Publisher's Summary

Abandoned by their ill-humored parents to the care of an odious nanny, Tim, the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and their sister, Jane, attempt to fulfill their roles as good old-fashioned children.

Following the models set in lauded tales from A Christmas Carol to Mary Poppins, the four Willoughbys hope to attain their proscribed happy ending too, or at least a satisfyingly maudlin one. However, it is an unquestionably ruthless act that sets in motion the transformations that lead to their salvation and to happy endings for not only the four children, but their nanny, an abandoned baby, a candy magnate, and his long-lost son, too.

This hilarious and decidedly old-fashioned parody pays playful homage to classic works of children's literature.

©2008 Lois Lowry; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This delightful story pulls in children and their parents for a great family listen." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story

Unexpectedly delightful! A treasured keeper!

I didn't expect this book to be so incredibly funny and sardonically dark at the same time. Parody is an understatement of the way Lois Lowry takes some horrid element of almost every scary children's story and makes it just another thing the Willoughby children have to deal with in their everyday life. They beg their father to read to them. He reads from Hansel and Gretel and the children are sent to bed with the appalling feeling he has just gotten a good idea of how to get rid of them. The children find a travel agency that specializes in trips seemingly designed to kill off their clientele and make sure their parents get the brochure. When their parents take off on vacation, they put the house on sale and tell the children to hide in the coal bin when prospective buyers appear. Only the odious nanny the parents hires before they leave could possibly make a difference. And she does.
Since this is ostensibly a children's book, it is the right length to be re-listened to regularly, when you need a good laugh, a mental gear-switch, or an uplift of spirit.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely Darling

Delightful read for grade schoolers... who will expand vocabulary to include a wide variety of despicable words. Nice use of orphans from other fictional works starting with Anne of Green Gables, Heidi and Huck Finn that would provide a topic driven stream of books for a summer of reading. I nearly turned it off when it came to the dictionary of words at the end... glad I didn't as it is as fun to read as the book itself. Has Lemony Snicket feel but is a little less dark.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fun and humorous book for pre-teens (and parents!)

What made the experience of listening to The Willoughbys the most enjoyable?

The narration was very good and the story was entertaining and had ample humor - especially 'inside jokes' for readers of classic children's literature. The glossary at the end was a very nice and funny touch.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Willoughbys?

The entire development of a nameless candy bar to potentially be named after the baby, Ruth. Additionally the nods to classic books and the characters and traits found therein. I also found the glossary at the end quite fun for us and my eight year old.

Which character – as performed by Arte Johnson – was your favorite?

Hmm.. this book doesn't have any 'stand out' characters in my mind. Nanny was quite good and Jane - but none really are spotlighted. The book is more a story-driven story (?) Anyway - it's a mix of tales we all know with a dose of humor.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Well I found the entire book fun and amusing - it's a short one after all!

Any additional comments?

Great short listen for children 8 and up I'd say.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jodie
  • PITTSBORO, NC, United States
  • 06-28-12

Delightful and Wonderful!!

Would you listen to The Willoughbys again? Why?

Yes, I will listen to The Willoughbys again! The story was fun and lighthearted. The narration couldn't have been more perfect for the story!!

Who was your favorite character and why?

If I had to choose a favorite, it would be Nanny. She was the string that tied it all together.

Have you listened to any of Arte Johnson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have never heard any other of Arte Johnson's performances but I sure love the way he narrated this story!!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I laughed and am telling everyone that will listen about how wonderful it is!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic family fun

This hysterically funny book kept the whole family (9, 12, 45, 49, and 80) laughing for 3 hours on our car trip. It is full of ridiculous situations and fantastical vocabulary words. Lots of great children's book references that we all enjoyed. Try it!

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AMAZING

THIS IS PROBABLY ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUDIO BOOKS EVER. THE NARRATOR WAS ALSO GREAT.

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Excellent!

I have listened to this book three times. Our whole family enjoyed it. Very funny and well done!

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  • Melissa
  • Morrisville, NY United States
  • 03-08-16

loved it

I t is a classic example of a great book I think I've listened to this book at least 100 times loved each time

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  • Michael
  • Milpitas, CA, United States
  • 07-30-12

Started a little slow but eventually got going

Would you listen to The Willoughbys again? Why?

Our kids might listen again, but I am not sure if it was one of their favorites.

Any additional comments?

My wife and I enjoyed the book. Some of the humor was for adults so it was good for an all-family listen. The kids were ready to turn it off after the first hour or so but eventually they really liked it by the end.