Monday, March 29, 2010
Book review: "The Willoughbys," by Lois Lowry
Walter Lorraine Books / Houghton Mifflin
A friend has convinced me to try my hand this year for the first time at writing children's literature; but I don't actually know anything about children's literature, so am starting the process among other ways by first reading a stack of popular books that have been recommended to me. Today's title was recommended to me by an actual children's librarian here in Chicago who I recently met, a sort of "Lemony Snicket" knockoff about a family full of beastly people, with parents who are trying to abandon their children and children trying to kill off their parents, and siblings being rude to other siblings and a nanny who's brutish to them all; but I have to admit, I don't really care that much for these types of neo-Victorian, comically ghoulish tales, because they feel to me like they're designed not so much for actual children but rather their snotty hipster Gen-X parents, the kind of "delightfully quirky" kid-lit book that adults read on the sly, as a way of reinforcing an idealized childhood sophistication that they never actually had, but now as middle-agers desperately wish that they did. I mean, I'm sure there are kids out there who really will legitimately like this; it's just that on the whole, it feels like everyone involved with this title cared little about whether that would turn out to be true, and a lot more about whether this could be used as the basis for an endless stream of pricey merchandise snatched up by lunchbox-carrying goth-girl college students. The entire thing is about 30,000 words altogether (not including the "Devil's Dictionary" type humorous glossary at the end), and seemed to me to be best geared towards older grade-schoolers and those just entering junior high (or in other words, very roughly ages 10 to 13).