Anastasia Krupnik is a novel which seems so light that it is can be dismissed as merely another amusing children’s or young adult’s novel. That light appearance, however, hides the fact that the book covers some territory of considerable interest and significance to young readers. In the hands of a less-skilled writer than Lois Lowry, the book could easily have degenerated into the merely silly. As it is, this book is comic, enormously touching, and remarkably insightful.
The novel is primarily concerned with family—the way in which family members relate, the accommodations that they make to the demands of the family situation, and the insights that they acquire. The Krupniks are an example of one of the happier and more functional and loving families in children’s and young adult literature. Even so, the adjustments that Anastasia must make in order to understand and flourish in her family are carefully and splendidly delineated by Lowry.
Anastasia is angry and unhappy at the discovery that she is no longer to be an only child, but she realizes the selfishness and egocentric nature of her attitude even as she experiences it. She is saddened and somewhat repelled by her senile grandmother, but she also realizes the sadness that both she and her parents feel at the clear deterioration of her grandmother’s mental faculties.
Lowry’s skill in character depiction is evident, and both the adults and the younger...
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That Lois Lowry is a splendid writer for children and young adults is attested by the Newbery Medals that her books have earned. The first of these awards was for Number the Stars (1989), a book dealing with the efforts of Danish citizens to save their Jewish friends and neighbors from the Nazis during World War II. A second was for The Giver (1993), a fantasy/science-fiction book dealing with an oppressive cult. Anastasia Krupnik garnered no such awards, but it did engender numerous sequels; indeed, the Anastasia books have become like a series.
Series books are generally held in low regard by children’s literature critics, although there are exceptions. Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books are almost universally beloved, although whether these books could truly be classified as series in the same way as the Babysitter’s Club books is debatable. Whether the term “series” could apply to the Anastasia books is also questionable, but the novels have been so popular that Lowry had written a total of nine books in the group by 1996.
Unfortunately, books as smoothly written, as light, and as humorous as the Anastasia books seldom reach the consideration of Newbery Medal committees. Nevertheless, these novels are high in quality and have significance. Teachers and students might become aware of them for the pleasures and the values they impart. Anastasia herself is an interesting, rounded, realistic character, and she seems to have found a place in the hearts of many young readers.