Anastasia Krupnik

I just finished Anastasia Krupnik, Lois Lowry’s first book in the Anastasia series (1979).  I had nifty incentive to read it because Anastasia was my wife’s childhood favorite for a time.  She and our daughter just read this first one out loud together.  I had to catch up on my own.

It’s brilliant!  I’ve read some slice-of-life DOGS in my time about kids.  But this one is good from the start.  Her 4th grade teacher has the kids write poems.  Anastasia is ecstatic- her dad is a poet and lit professor.  How can she miss?  But it turns out the teacher only likes rhyming, sing-song poetry.  Anastasia non-rhyming free verse will be poorly received.  So it’s no wonder when, “Anastasia had begun to feel a little funny, as if she had ginger ale inside her knees”.

Poor Anastasia gets an F and Mrs. Westvessel goes on the bad side of Anastasia’s list of things she loves and hates.  We see the list at the end of each chapter, and it’s undergoing constant change.

It’s a short book filled with birth, life, death, and lots of laughs and empathy.  At the ripe old age of ten she gets a sibling, her little brother who her parents have rashly promised her she can name.

Can’t wait to read the next Anastasia in the series,even if it is my wife’s turf for story-reading with our daughter.

Lois Lowry is one of our most honored living children’s author, and maybe the most versatile.  She’s won two Newbery Medals.  Gotta admit I couldn’t make much sense out of The Giver, but everyone tells me it’s brilliant and profound.  I believe them.

But I did have a ball reading The Willoughbys (2008) with the kids while Jen was gone to Peru.  It’s a super-fun, wacky parody of the apparently-orphaned kids facing one trial after another.  Sounds like A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, but somehow those didn’t tickle me.  After Willoughbys, my daughter and I read the delicious Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken which must have inspired Lowry.

Lowry performs an amazing feat by having it be very tongue-in-cheek, with lots of references to the kids being old-fashioned, deserving kids and comparing their plight to  situations in Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and James and the Giant Peach while at the same time having it feel real and vivid.  We care about Tim, Barnaby A and B, and Jane. An appendix at the back capsulizes thirteen classics the book touches on.

I loved that Lowry did her own pictures for The Willoughbys.  Its author bio, which she must have written herself, says “Today she is a wizened, reclusive old woman who sits hushed over her desk thinking obsessively about the placement of commas.”  It’s great that Lois Lowry covers so much ground, and that her early heroine still reads so well thirty years later.

So Anastasia, nice to meet you this weekend and hear about your brother Sam, born when you’re already 10.  And Sam Krupnik, maybe I’ll read the series about you sometime.  In fact:  Jen, I hereby reserve that series for reading to our son when the time comes!

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6 Comments

Filed under Age: Middle Grade, Age: Young Adult, Fiction, Reviews

6 responses to “Anastasia Krupnik

  1. John

    Excellent. I’ll keep this in mind for my own daughter.

  2. Dan–fun and funny, as always! I haven’t read any of the Krupnik books, but as always your posts tempt me. I’ve read The Giver a few times. It’s unusual, to say the least, and probably one of the least likely books to have ended up on my list of favorites. It is, in fact, brilliant. It’s been awhile since I last read it, but as I recall, it has a detached feel, like the author is purposely stepping way back because she is so sure that the unadorned story is going to blow us away. It’s a bit like Hatchet, which reads almost like a newspaper article, yet you can’t stop reading.

    Thanks for the post, and happy reading!

    • Kevin, I’m glad you like The Giver. It makes me feel smarter and profounder knowing my friend really “gets” it.

      And I do think The Willoughbys is your kind of book. Short, snappy, totally entertaining.

  3. This is exciting because I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned except The Giver, which I thought was brilliant and profound…he, he. I look forward to reading both the Anastasia series and the Sam series, as I am not gender inhibited!

    • Yeah, Robyn, try those out. I’m glad you liked The Giver. I do admire what a wide range of writing Lois Lowry can put out. I notice how some writers start with slice-of-life stories and then do more and more ambitious stuff.

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