Monday 21 March 2011

Monday Spotlight 2: Anastasia, At Your Service by Lois Lowry

As a teenager, I read a lot of Lois Lowry. Nobody else I knew did. Mind you, not many of my friends at that age actually read much at all! But despite this, I've never read The Giver, which is the Lowry book which appparently is some kind of a rite of passage for loads of other people. Since I've been thinking about books I want to reread for the spotlight on childhood favourites, I'm starting to think I should expand it to include books I should have read as a child, but never got around to, such as The Giver, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, among others.

Anyway, as you may have seen, I was bought an awesome load of books by my boyfriend for our anniversary, which included 3 of the 'Anastasia' books I loved as a twelve and thirteen years old, and which, I must admit, I've not seen anywhere pretty much since then.
As with the Famous Five last week, Anastasia, At Your Service didnt' disappoint me with the reread. The book was funny and engaging - I will actually admit to giggling a little while reading it.

Anastasia Krupnik (best surname ever by the way) is twelve. Her family have just moved, and she is bored, and needs a job to supplement her allowance. What she really wants to do, is be a companion to a rich old lady, so she writes up a resume, and, with help from her parents, (who never laugh at her!) puts it up in all the places she thinks rich old ladies hang out. This lead to a rich old lady, Mrs. Bellingham, hiring her as a maid (oh, the crossing of wires! Hilarity...) where she meets her grandaughter, Daphne, and makes her first friend.

The things that happen in the book - Anastasia and Daphne plotting to get their revenge on Daphne's grandmother for giving her a doll (shock, horror!) for her birthday, Anastasia's little brother, Sam, falling out a window and ending up in hospital - are all fairly routine things, which really could happen to anyone. When I was twelve, Anastasia's life could easily have been my life. I schemed with my friends like she schemes with Daphne, I talked to my family in the same way as she does hers (convinced I absolutely couldn't survive on the amount of pocket money I got, why did my parents never listen to me, etc, etc, etc), and I tried, and failed dismally, to be 'grown up'. Rereading this book made me remember so many things I'd forgotten about being twelve.

It has a simplicity that I think is lacking in a lot of teenage fiction today, but also which probably stems from the time at which it was published (1982). Nowadays, I can't see many parents letting their twelve year old out on their own until 9pm without a mobile phone, at the very least! The Anastasia books are similar, in tone and content, to The Babysitter's Club books by Ann M. Martin, which were my all-consuming passion between ages 11 - 14, and which I'm hoping to get hold of to reread. Unfortunately, '80s YA seems to be totally out at the moment, making it really hard to get hold of. I could kick myself, as at one point, I had pretty much the entire series that I'd collected from library sales and charity shops, but I passed them on to my sister who was a bit too young for them at the time, and they were all offloaded to some other friend of the family. Now I just wish I'd hung onto them - kept them in a cupboard or something. But I suppose if I start thinking like this, I'll never get rid of another book, ever, and then my house will be overrun...

To conclude, Anastasia, At Your Service is still as simple, funny, and true as I remember it being. I loved rereading it, and now I've got to get hold of the rest of the series!

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