Lois Lowry •
Anastasia at Your Service •
It’s hard to pick a favorite in this top-notch series, but At Your Service may be the Anastasia book I return to most often. To earn pocket money, twelve-year-old Anastasia Krupnik decides to hire herself out as a companion to a rich old lady—“like in mystery books by Mary Roberts Rinehart”—but finds she’s treated as a scullery maid instead. Worse, she accidentally drops a spoon (was it really a bockle?) down the garbage disposal, putting her further in debt. And her tactics to disguise herself as a middle-aged woman will have you in stitches.
Meanwhile, Anastasia’s little brother is undergoing stitches of his own: He’s been hospitalized after falling from an upper-story window. “His repertoire of songs beats anything I ever heard at a fraternity party,” observes the nurse attending Sam.
Lowry’s signature touches here include references to Fellini movies, Kojak, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (which Anastasia detested), and she paints a warm picture of the Krupniks’ home life. The books are chockablock with hilarious situations, but Anastasia endures as a heroine chiefly because of her intrinsic kindness. She always tries to do the right thing, not only with family and friends, but with panhandlers, bus drivers, and even that nerd Robert Giannini with his disgusting nose drops (Anastasia’s Chosen Career). It’s just that the results are never quite what she plans, and you’ve got to keep reading to find out how she will extricate herself this time around. Count on her doing it with originality and humor.
Then there are her wonderful parents, an English professor and an artist. When Anastasia announces dramatically, “I am dying. I have clasped an asp to my bosom,” her mother retorts, “Must have been a heck of a disappointment for the asp. You hardly even have a bosom.”