Thursday, January 9, 2014

Anastasia at Your Service

By Lois Lowry. Published 1982.

Anastasia is in a full-on depression. She is bored and broke, an awful combination when you’re twelve. Awesome Dad thinks she should get a job. She’s open to the idea, but knows that’s a difficult thing to do at her age, other than baby-sitting, which definitely does not want to do. Awesome Dad asks her what she would like. What Anastasia would really like is to be a companion to a rich old lady. Awesome Parents tell her to write up a resume, and they’ll put it around town at places rich ladies frequent. They’re so supportive.

Anastasia gets a call for a job from a Mrs. Bellingham. But when she gets there, she’s put to work in the kitchen, polishing silverware. And she accidentally sends a spoon down the garbage disposal. Mrs. Bellingham calls it a debacle, and Anastasia’s all, “What the hell is a bockle?” That ends up costing $35, though, so Anastasia owes her twelve more hours of work. She gets to start on that the next day, helping serve at a lunch for Mrs. Bellingham’s granddaughter’s birthday. Her name is Daphne, and she’ll be going into the seventh grade, too.

Anastasia is mortified at the thought of serving someone she may end up knowing, so she decides to disguise herself as a middle-aged woman. This includes wearing makeup, putting powder in her hair, and wearing one of Awesome Mom’s bras stuffed with pantyhose. Unfortunately, this starts falling into the deviled eggs as Anastasia is serving them. Daphne, however, is the only one to notice, and gets her out of there before anyone else does. While getting Anastasia cleaned up, the girls become friendly, and end up deciding on taking revenge out on Mrs Bellingham. Anastasia wants to for making her work as a maid, and Daphne does because she dared to give her a doll for her birthday, and just because Daphne is kind of a pain in the ass like that.

Anastasia goes over to Daphne’s house the next night, and they come up with their revenge plan. Mrs. Bellingham is having a big fancy party, that people pay to come to, and that Anastasia will have to work at. So Daphne is going to steal extra invitations and hand them out to various undesirable types. Like the drunk homeless man, deinstitutionalized psychotics, and a couple of stoners.

When Anastasia returns home, she finds herself in the middle of an emergency. Two-year-old Sam has fallen out of his second-story window. Don’t worry, though, he’ll be fine, despite a depressed skull fracture. He has to stay in the hospital for a while, though. He starts talking about a lady named Mrs. Flypaper who visits him, but nobody at the hospital knows anyone even close to that name. Also, they had to shave all of his curls off. This appears to be the real tragedy.

Daphne gets all the invitations delivered, but Anastasia finds out some bad news. Turns out the party is a fundraiser for the hospital where Sam was treated. She tells Daphne, and they agree that that’s not the place to take out their revenge. But it’s too late to get the invitations back. So they decide to just keep an eye out for their invitees, and firmly ask them to leave. Anastasia thinks she spots one, and is about to ask him to leave, but it turns out to be the most famous decorator in town. Daphne does ask someone to leave, but he ends up being the mayor. Whoops.

So the jig is up, and Mrs. Bellingham is upset, but tries to be understanding. She tells the girls they can leave, but that Anastasia should come by the next day for her pay. When she does, she brings Sam along. It turns out Sam and Mrs. Bellingham know each other. She’s his Mrs. Flypaper, because she volunteers at the pediatric wing of the hospital, and made him a paper airplane.

o   Anastasia and Awesome Parents think she can advertise as Anastasia at Your Service. Sam mispronounces it as Anastasia Atcher Service.

o   Daphne’s pretty hardcore. Her minister father forgives everything she does, so she likes to push the envelope. Including mowing the Nazi swastika into the lawn. It’s forgiven, but she has to mow it out the next day.

o   Room Porn: Daphne’s room is painted black, with a huge obscene poster of two dogs.

o   Anastasia thinks The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is probably about hardware or sex.


  1. OMG I totally forgot that Daphne mowed a swastika in her lawn. All this time I remembered her as someone I wanted to be friends with. /o\ Yeah, now I'd get that kid some counseling before she hurts somebody.

    Is this the book with Gertrustein?

    1. Yeah, she's definitely a little crazy.

      Gertrustein was introduced in Anastasia, Again. Love me some Gertrustein.