The four Willoughby children realize that they should have been orphans, especially given that their parents don’t like them very much. About the same time, the parents realize that they want to get rid of the children themselves. It’s possible both things will be accomplished as the parents set off on a series of dangerous adventures, hiring a nanny to watch the children. Along the way, an abandoned baby, a grieving millionaire, a lederhosen-wearing boy, and a meticulous woman all feature in the strange story. Here’s a selection from early in the book that gives a sense of the tone.
“Oh, someone has left a beastly baby on our front steps,” Tim told her.In June I’ll join the conversation about this title at the DC Kid Lit Book Club. I’m curious to hear others reactions to the book, and maybe glean why I didn’t get the joke. I mean, I understood the satire, but it didn’t leave me laughing. And you know I love to laugh.
“My goodness, we don’t want a baby!” their mother said, coming forward to take a look. “I don’t like the feel of this at all.”
“I’d like to keep it,” Jane said in a small voice. “I think it’s cute.”
“No it’s not cute,” Barnaby A said, looking down at it.
“Not cute at all,” Barnaby B agreed.
“It has curls,” Jane pointed out.
Their mother peered at the baby and then reached toward the basket of beige knitting that she kept on a hall table. She removed a small pair of gold-plated scissors and snipped them open and closed several times, thoughtfully. Then she leaned over the basket and used the scissors.
“Now it doesn’t have curls,” she pointed out, and put the scissors away.
Jane stared at the baby. Suddenly it stopped crying and stared back at her with wide eyes. “Oh dear. It isn’t cute without curls,” Jane said. “I guess I don’t want it anymore.”
“Take it somplace else, children,” their mother said, turning back toward the kitchen. “Dispose of it. I’m busy with a meat loaf.”
EDITED TO ADD: Kelly Fineman has a very thorough review of The Willoughbys today. She enjoyed it, so let's see what she had to say.