Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The JUV FIC Corner presents Anastasia Krupnik


One of my favorite series in middle school was Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik series. I remembered one very important covetous thing about Anastasia Krupnik—her room was in the tower of an old Victorian house. That was all I remembered about this series beyond remembering that I really liked the books.

I grabbed the first in the Anastasia series, the eponymous Anastasia Krupnik, from the Nashville Public Library when I was home last month. [Brooklyn PL, I cannot figure out what fills the shelves at my local branch because you NEVER HAVE WHAT I NEED!] I sped through it and...realized I don't think I'd ever read the first in the series before. I mean, I remembered NOTHING from this book. I didn't remember any plot points from this one, but it serves as an introduction...

Definitely the cover I remember.*
Anastasia is a 10-year-old only child living in an apartment in Cambridge, MA. She's a likable character, now and especially to my 10- to 12-year-old self. She's spunky (the good JUV FIC female characters always are!) and creative, smart and opinionated.  Her parents are just as smart and quirky (a professor father and artist mother) and treat Anastasia like a person and not just a kid—they sing opera and listen to classical music and read poetry, let Anastasia drink the first sip when they open a beer, and tease yet appease her childish whims.

Well, since I didn't remember the first one in the series, I moved onto the second, Anastasia Again. Now, Anastasia and her parents have moved to the suburbs (in the Victoria house with a tower! WIN!), she has a new little brother named Sam, and Anastasia deals with meeting new friends and keeping in touch with her old ones through a series of humorous hijinks that can only be signature of Anastasia. I read this one and it was exactly as I hoped it would be—all the memories came flooding back and I remembered all the silly things that happened!

There are several reasons I loved Anastasia Again this time around:
  1. I can see how stories and characters like this deeply influenced me as a kid. Anastasia and her family lived in a very academic, cultured environment, and that's something I always strived for growing up (even as a kid). They listened to classical music and (probably) watched PBS. Anastasia and her parents had a relationship that was much more than parent/child; it was more equal, as a friendship, with some mentorship thrown in.
  2. It demonstrates a worldly view that I think is really important, and fun, for kids to have growing up. Lowry describes the cultural diversity in the parks of Cambridge, the lifestyles of persons with different interests and of different ages. Aside from eventually having my own kids that I am excited to expose to new things, this is also one of the main reasons I am so excited to be a librarian and have books like this available to share with readers.
  3. Anastasia is a JUV FIC series, but it's not written as if it's directed only towards kids. Lowry talks about things that surprised me a bit, things that only adults would get—mention of Playboy and pornography and curse words (though we know kids understand those). Frankly, I'm surprised they survived publication [though I have read a couple notes that Anastasia books have been challenged in libraries for their language].

I thought Anastasia Again was much better than the first, and I may keep on with reading the series since they're all available as eBooks from the Brooklyn PL (FINALLY, Brooklyn!). It's fun to see now, as an adult, how books I read in my childhood/youth have probably shaped my world view, and I'm certain that Anastasia had some influence somewhere in there.

*Note: When I write these JUV FIC posts, I try to use the cover images that I remember as a kid. Looking at the Anastasia covers, there are so many editions and I remember them all!

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