Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: Anastasia's Chosen Career by Lois Lowry (1987)

In school, Anastasia has been given an assignment to interview someone who works in her chosen career field, and to write an essay. Anastasia has decided to become a bookstore owner, so in addition to getting her father to set up an appointment for her with one of his bookseller friends, she also enrolls in a modeling class to learn poise and self-confidence. From these two experiences, Anastasia gains several things: a new (female) friend named Henry, a chance to see her old friend Robert Giannini, an appreciation for much of the thanklessness of running an independent bookstore, and an understanding that she will never be a real model (and that this is perfectly okay with her.)

Lois Lowry has created such a wonderfully three-dimensional character in Anastasia that at this point, I truly believe I would enjoy seeing her go through any experience. Anastasia’s thought processes about things like choosing a career are funny and honest, and they manage to be easily relatable and completely original at the same time. I also like that Anastasia’s parents are involved in her life but give her the freedom to travel by bus to Boston on her own.

Anastasia’s Chosen Career strikes me as one of the easier books in the series to promote to today’s readers. This is mainly because of its connections to TV shows about modeling and makeovers. Though Anastasia’s modeling experience is mostly for fun, there is another girl in her class who is very serious about it and whose experience reminds me a lot of what happens to girls on America’s Next Top Model, especially when it comes to some of their dramatic haircuts.

Another issue in the book that is even more significant today than it was when it was first published is the struggles of independent book stores. Lowry does a nice job of raising some of the problems faced by small book stores, and through Anastasia’s comments and questions, she provides a great opportunity for kids to reflect on the ways bookstores are being replaced by larger companies.

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