Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review: Anastasia at Your Service by Lois Lowry (1982)

Anastasia has settled into suburban life, but she really wishes she had a job. Specifically, she wants to work as a Lady’s Companion to a rich old lady, a position she imagines would be quite glamorous and suited to her abilities. When she puts out an ad, Anastasia is in fact hired by a rich grandmother, but it turns out that Mrs. Bellingham just wants her to work as a maid. Worse, Mrs. Bellingham has a granddaughter, Daphne, who is Anastasia’s age, and she just happens to be a witness to one of Anastasia’s most embarrassing moments of all time! This is not the fabulous summer Anastasia imagined, but her trials and tribulations make for hilarious tween reading material all the same.

It is so puzzling to me that the Anastasia series didn’t really catch on with me as a kid. I can remember looking at them many times in the library and bookstores, but I never really got hooked. Now, though, I look forward to reading each volume, because of the quirky protagonist, clever dialogue, and warm family environment. Kids will recognize bits of themselves in Anastasia - her imagination, her stubborn streak, her anger at being treated unfairly, and her humiliation when she makes wacky plans that don’t come off quite as she imagined. Readers will feel sympathy for her, too, when a family emergency erases her worries about how she looks to her employer and instead focuses her energy on the well-being of her baby brother.

Readers who like Harriet the Spy and From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will also be likely fans of this book, because of its vintage style, intelligent writing, and memorable characters.

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