I don’t know how I’ve managed to not write about an Anastasia Krupnik book yet. A while ago, The Unprofessional Critic did a guest post for me on Anastasia at This Address. But, for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten around to re-reading good old Anastasia yet.
This is the first Anastasia book, and only Lois Lowry’s second published book. And oh my, it’s a good one. Anastasia is precocious, snarky, and funny. It was a great read for young girls in the eighties who maybe weren’t getting female protagonists quite like Anastasia.
In this book, Anastasia is ten years old and an only child (for now) to her poetry professor father and painter mother. Anastasia is too smart and curious for her own good sometimes, and her parents wisely answer all her crazy questions about life. Anastasia keeps an ongoing list of things she likes and things she doesn’t. In fact, each chapter ends with Anastasia’s updated list.
This book reminds me a little of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, particularly the earlier Ramona books, in that each chapter almost works as its own little short story, with one common theme threaded through. In this case, the common thread is that Anastasia’s parents are expecting another baby, a boy. And they’ve given Anastasia the honor of naming him. Considering Anastasia is less than thrilled about becoming a big sister, that’s incredibly brave of her parents. But, when you read it, you understand that her parents are doing it because they believe in her to do the right thing.
Hilariously though, Anastasia’s initial plan is to give the baby a name after hearing some boys in her class telling a dirty joke. The name? One-Ball Reilly.
Anastasia’s other plans include trying to become Catholic (so she can change her name), then a Hare Krishna, attempting to get an afro to impress a boy (the impressively named Washburn Cummings), accompanying her father to one of his poetry classes, and admiring the shiny pink wart on her finger.
Meanwhile, Anastasia’s grandmother is ailing. She has either dementia or alzheimers. The day Anastasia’s wart falls off, Grandmother dies. Anastasia and her father go to clear out her room, and Anastasia learns a lot about the grandmother, including how much she loved her husband, Sam. That afternoon, the mom goes into labor and Anastasia does decide to do the right thing, and names her baby brother Sam. And, in a weird side note, Anastasia is only ten and her grandmother is 92! Anastasia’s father is forty-five, which is some crazy math right there – grandmother gave birth to the dad at forty-seven!
I can’t say enough good things about this book. Anastasia is a fun, quirky protagonist, the kind of girl I really wanted to be, except that I was a shy introverted little bookworm who was deathly afraid of being seen a strange.