The Willoughbys Return

HMH. Sept. 2020. 192p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358423898.
Gr 4-7–Henry and Frances Willoughby have been frozen in the Swiss Alps for three decades. They left their children with the nanny, and 30 years later Tim Willoughby is grown up and runs a successful candy manufacturing company. One problem: Candy is now banned and Tim’s fortune is lost. Richie, Tim’s son, is lonely and becomes friends with Winifred and Winston Poore. The Poores are aptly named; they live next door in a hovel, eat gruel for breakfast, and reuse Band-Aids. Their dad is traveling the country selling encyclopedias and mailing rocks home to collector Winifred. Mrs. Poore opens a bed-and-breakfast to raise money. One day, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby show up at her door. They’re back from Switzerland, thawed out and in search of their children. With nothing for dinner, a desperate Mrs. Poore serves a salad of leaves she picks from her neighbor’s garden with gruesome results. Lowry’s latest resumes the irreverent humor and tongue-in-cheek asides of the first book. Literary references abound: Mrs. Poore’s sentimental musings are called “marming,” after Marmee from Little Women (a footnote lists all the actresses who’ve played Marmee in the movies). The story is also peppered with contemporary cultural references: A dazed Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby wonder what an Uber might be. Richie’s materialistic lifestyle (he orders constantly from the internet), counterpoints poignantly with the loving but paltry existence of the Poore children.
VERDICT An old-fashioned story with a knowing, modern feel. For fans of the first book.

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