“Shouldn’t we be orphans?” one of the Willoughby children suggests one day. The four are, after all, part of an old-fashioned kind of family, and their parents–well, their parents are not all that one would hope for. Recalling literary heroes and heroines such as Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, and James with his giant peach, the Willoughbys concoct a diabolical plot to turn themselves into worthy and winsome orphans. Little do they know that Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby have already begun to formulate their own thoroughly despicable plan inspired by another favorite bedtime story: the tale of Hansel and Gretel...

Villains, benefactors, no-nonsense nannies, abandoned infants, long-lost heirs, and late-life romance all make their appearance along with the irrepressible Willoughbys as the Newbery Award-winning author Lois Lowry pays playful homage to classic works of literature in this hilarious and decidedly “old-fashioned” parody.
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