cover image The Willoughbys Return

The Willoughbys Return

Lois Lowry. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-358-42389-8

Twelve years after the publication of The Willoughbys and 30 years after it takes place, Lowry’s quirky cast returns for another madcap adventure, balancing the original’s droll voice and elaborate plotting with a slightly more humane tone. With the Willoughby siblings now grown, the eldest—Tim, now a candy manufacturing magnate—is living lavishly in Commander Melanoff’s mansion with son Richie, 11, when a draconian new law criminalizes candy and jeopardizes the family’s fortune. They represent a stark contrast to the Poores, aptly named neighbors whose patriarch is away on a futile mission to sell outdated encyclopedias. In their father’s absence, Winifred, 10, and Winston, 12, help their mother turn the modest home into a B&B (“bed and bathroom”) for much-needed funds. Their first guests? The newly defrosted Willoughby parents, who arrive fresh off a Swiss Alp clueless about the passage of time and increasingly eager to make amends with the children they once mistreated. Lowry’s arch narration, enhanced by amusing footnote asides, moves nimbly across many story lines, employing running jokes (the Poore children chastise their mother for “Marming” when she spouts platitudes à la Little Women’s Marmee) and resulting in an entertainingly absurd revival that recalls Roald Dahl’s oeuvre. Ages 8–12. Agent: Emily Van Beek, Folio Literary. (Sept.)