Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Review: Anastasia Has the Answers by Lois Lowry (1986)

In the sixth novel of the series Anastasia Krupnik is asking the important questions: who, what , where, when, why, and how. The answers ought to be simple enough, but things are complicated for Anastasia by her adoration for her gym teacher, her inability to climb ropes like the rest of her classmates and her little brother Sam’s fascination with reenacting the funeral of their recently deceased aunt.

I feel like I repeat myself a lot in my posts about this series, but each addition is truly every bit as enjoyable as the last. The dialogue is spot-on, the characters are memorable and believable, and Anastasia’s positive attitude and sense of humor in the face of adolescent embarrassment are both entertaining and comforting. I was struck this time by how much I enjoyed Sam’s strangeness, and I found myself laughing out loud each time he found a new way of reenacting his aunt’s funeral procession and burial. This might seem morbid, but it rings perfectly true for Sam’s age and personality, and for the overall tone of the series.

As a person who hated gym class as a teenager, I would have related strongly to this book had I read it in seventh or eighth grade. I also loved the fact that Anastasia’s gym teacher wears a sweatshirt bearing the name of my alma mater, Vassar College. The overall sensibility of the story is still very dated, but Anastasia’s awkward adolescent experiences are universal, and with the right book talk, I think certain kids could still be sold on the series. It would really help, though, if the books could get some decent new covers.