There are a handful of books that I’ve kept from my childhood. Storylines that resonated with me, characters I connected with. These books now line a shelf in my guest room and hold a special place in my heart. But out of all those books, one is at the top of the list, Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry. If you don’t know Anastasia, allow me to introduce her. She is a bright, quirky ten-year old girl, the only daughter oldest child of a painter and a Harvard poetry professor. She has a pet fish, Frank, and is about to become a big sister, something she is none too happy about realizes might be a wonderful thing. And she is a master list maker. In fact, she has a green spiral notebook she keeps all of her lists in; a list of words, beginnings of poems, and important events. On page fourteen, she keeps a list of things she loves and things she hates; the items are always being updated. It is through Anastasia’s musings that we learn about the trials of being ten. Whether she’s mourning the disappearance of her wart or grappling with her grandmother’s dementia, you can see Anastasia’s life as a ten-year old over the course of a year in fifth grade. Do you remember when you were ten? How things would change from day-to-day? How you might struggle to understand what was going on in your world? Lois Lowry does such a great an impressive job of creating a real character, someone who really does exist, to some degree, in all of us, no matter what our age. While the experiences of Anastasia are real and sometimes serious, Lowry uses humor to connect the reader and this young, freckle-faced girl. It is the combination of humor and reality that has allowed me to enjoy Anastasia both as a ten-year old and a forty-something year old.
Not everyone is a list maker, but we all experience the things that Anastasia experiences– love, birth, and death. Even though this book was first published over thirty years ago, Lowry really has created a timeless story that can still be enjoyed by kids readers of all ages, even in 2013. Lowry went on to write an Anastasia series, chronicling the challenges of growing up. As I grew up, I moved away from Anastasia and into different genres and authors. After rereading Anastasia Krupnik, I think it’s time to spend some more time with her.