Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anastasia, Again!

By Lois Lowry. Published 1981.

Anastasia’s back, y’all! Now she’s twelve, five foot seven, and has just received some bad news. Her family is moving to the suburbs. Anastasia says she’d rather be dead, and comes up with all sorts of reasons why moving to the suburbs is a bad idea. Awesome Parents tell her she’s making unreasonable assumptions. Anastasia says she never makes anything, not since a potholder in third grade.

Another “problem” of Anastasia’s is her little brother Sam. He’s not like other two year olds. He speaks in complete sentences, and has quite a vocabulary. Anastasia says he’s weird, and it will be a disaster to move him to the suburbs.

Anastasia and Awesome Parents make a list of the things they want in a house. Anastasia hopes if they can’t find a house that meets their requirements, they’ll just stay put. She says she wants a house where she can have a room in a tower.

A boy from school, Robert Giannini, calls Anastasia one day and asks her to go ride bikes by the river and look for junk. Anastasia thinks he’s weird because he carries a briefcase all the time. But she gets adorably nervous about what she’s going to wear, her hair, and what they’re going to talk about. They have a pretty good time, but Anastasia mistakenly gives him the impression that Sam is deformed.

The family is going to go look at a house. Anastasia and Sam come up with a plot where he’ll cry and say he’s allergic to the house. But when they get there, everyone falls in love with the house. It has everything from their list.

When they move, Awesome Parents suffer from Post-Move Depression. Awesome Mom can’t find the pitcher, so Anastasia offers to go next door with Sam and ask the neighbors if they have one. Sam says a witch lives there, he saw her looking out the window. When they get there, Anastasia can see why he thought that. Her name is Gertrude Stein, but Sam calls her Gertrustein. She’s prickly with Anastasia, but she likes Sam. The two make a date to go walking the next day.

Anastasia decides to buy Gertrustein a goldfish, because she’s lonely. When she gets home, she returns a call from Robert. She knows the number by heart, because she looked it up a hundred times. But only because she was bored. They have an awkwardly cute conversation.

Anastasia takes the goldfish over to Gertrustein’s. She seems to like her present, and names him Mr. Stein. She tells Anastasia the story of the real Mr. Stein, who left thirty years ago after three years of marriage. Gertrustein doesn’t miss him at all. Anastasia and Gerturstein are more friendly now, and Anastasia offers to do Gertrustein’s hair for her.

This conversation, however, leads Anastasia to worrying that she’ll have to marry Robert one day, because he’s the only boy who likes her. After Awesome Mom soothes her fears about this, a tall, good-looking boy rings the doorbell, and offers to mow the lawn. His name is Steve Harvey, and he and Anastasia will be in the same homeroom. They make plans to play tennis after he’s done with the lawn.

Anastasia’s friend Jenny calls, and she learns Jenny’s been hanging out with Robert. They get a little pissy with each other, but they get over it. Jenny tells her she and Robert will ride their bikes over to Anastasia’s the next weekend. Anastasia worries about Robert meeting the non-deformed Sam. She tells Awesome Mom her troubles, and, instead of getting mad, she suggests he go over to Gertrustein’s for the day.

Anastasia tells Gertrustein she needs to make some friends, but she says she doesn’t like people. Anastasia just thinks she’s scared. Then she gets an idea. She goes down to the Senior Drop-In Center, and tells the people there about Gertrustein. Fourteen people say they would be glad to meet her, and they make plans to go to Anastasia’s on Saturday afternoon. Anastasia wonders what she’ll tell Robert and Jenny. She tries to get Awesome Mom to call Jenny and tell her she has leprosy, but she won’t do it.

Sam is being annoying with a flashlight, turning it off and on, and saying “FLASH.”  He and Gertruestein are going to play a game called Flasher. Anastasia helpfully informs him what a real flasher is.

Through a confusing mix-up, Awesome Mom knows a group of Anastasia’s new friends are coming over, but she doesn’t know they’re senior citizens. She’s half afraid they’re a gang and will be arriving by motorcycles.

Saturday arrives, and with it Jenny and Robert. The girls can’t believe Robert is wearing rain boots, which Anastasia calls rubbers, which makes me giggle.

The senior citizens show up, and although there’s confusion to begin with, it settles down into a really fun party. Awesome Mom calls Gertrustein to come over, and she brings Sam. She’s a little put off at first, but then gets into it. Steve Harvey and his family drop by to meet Anastasia, and they’re welcomed into the fun.

When things begin to quiet down, they hear Sam coming down the stairs. He appears in the doorway wearing his raincoat. He, of course, flashes everyone, which brings a close to the party.

o   I would feel weird about having a full, mature conversation with someone while changing their diaper, no matter how young they are.

o   Anastasia throws out the creepy orangutan poster when she moves.

o   Room porn: In her room at the apartment, Anastasia has wallpaper that was blue and white, with people riding old-fashioned bicycles on it; some of them playing flutes and violins while they rode. Their names are Stanley and Sybil. Awesome Mom checks, and they’re still making it, so she orders some. Before that, though, Anastasia begins pulling off the wallpaper that’s already there. There are three layers of it.

o   Sam flushed Frank the First goldfish down the toilet. They held a memorial service. Anastasia played taps on a harmonica, and her father sang.

o   Anastasia is disappointed her new library doesn’t have her favorite book on leprosy. She liked to check it out every few months to make sure she didn’t have leprosy herself.

o   When Gertrustein first tells Anastasia about Mr. Stein (the person) she also tells her about her real true love, Edward, who lived in Anastasia’s house. When Anastasia gets down to the last layer of wallpaper, she finds “Edward loves Gertrude. Always” written there.

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