Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Anastasia Has the Answers

By Lois Lowry. Published 1986.

Awesome Parents are going to California, but not for an awesome reason, and only for two days. Anastasia has the option to go with them, but decides not to. They’re going for the funeral of Awesome Dad’s sister-in-law, Aunt Rose, and Anastasia is kinda freaked out over how young she was. She’s also grossed out by the cause of death, which was salmonella poisoning. Gertrustein will be staying over to care for Sam.

Anastasia just cannot climb the ropes in gym class. She’s super embarrassed by this, especially because she has a crush on her gym teacher, Ms. Willoughby. She vehemently denies said crush, however.

Anastasia’s friend Daphne is having a rough time, because her parents are divorcing. Her father has a new girlfriend, and her mother is depressed. Anastasia thinks she needs a man friend. But she discovers that none of the women she knows, no matter what their age, has a man friend.

Anastasia is a little obsessed with Gone With the Wind. She thinks her English teacher should assign that instead of Johnny Tremaine. But she knows that won’t happen. But she’s overjoyed when Awesome Parents return from California with her Uncle George, and he looks exactly like Clark Gable. And she knows a couple of single women who will be thrilled to meet him. Slow your roll, Anastasia, he just buried his wife.

Anastasia gets Awesome Dad and Uncle George to put up a rope for her to practice on in the garage. And then everyone, except Sam, proceeds to climb it. It pisses Anastasia off.

Anastasia asks Awesome Mom, “for a friend”, if she thinks it’s weird for a girl to have a crush on a woman teacher. Awesome Mom says not at all, and she had one herself. She turned out just fine. This is why Awesome Mom is awesome.

Anastasia introduces Uncle George to Daphne's mother, but she's really not interested, no matter who he looks like. Daphne shares that she thinks her parents’ divorce was her fault, because she used to be a bit difficult. But Anastasia makes her realize it had nothing to do with her.

A group of foreign educators are coming to view Anastasia’s school, so there will be lots of demonstrations. Of course, Anastasia’s gym class will be doing rope climbing. Anastasia gets assigned the task of blowing the whistle, since she still can’t climb the rope. She’s pretty humiliated by this. Awesome Mom throws everything aside to help her practice at home, because she is awesome.

Anastasia got halfway up the rope that night, and wants to show Ms. Willoughby the next day, but she just hands her the whistle. Anastasia nearly kills herself on the way home from school; she’s so distracted by a rope-climbing daydream. But that afternoon she does it; she climbs all the way to the top. Daphne says she should surprise everyone, just like in the daydream.

Her first class the next day is English, where she’s supposed to recite a poem. Her teacher has been trying to get her to fling her arms out dramatically, but Anastasia’s having none of that shit. But it turns out they run out of time before Anastasia has her turn anyway.

In gym class, Anastasia dutifully blows her whistle. But after the last group of girls has gone up and down the ropes, she steps forward and makes a small speech about how she hasn’t been able to do it, but thanks to Ms. Willoughby, she now can. And she definitely does. She makes it all the way to the top. She thinks about the first line of her poem, “Oh world! I cannot hold thee close enough!” really feels it, and flings her arms wide open.

And falls from the top of the rope.

She wakes up in the hospital. And there’s a whole huge group waiting to see her. Her family, Gertrustein, Ms. Willoughby, and a bunch of the foreign educators. Anastasia realizes they all must think she’s pretty special, and hopes that doesn’t make her conceited.

o   Anastasia is convinced her English teacher puts clear nail polish on his nails. They’re just too shiny.

o   The teacher Awesome Mom had a crush on was named Hermione. Awesome Mom apologizes for the name. If she only knew…

o   Tiny bit of room porn: Daphne’s bedroom has wallpaper that is pale green, with ladies in hoopskirts, holding parasols by a lake. How charming.

o   Sam plays a game of funeral throughout the book, repeatedly burying Aunt Rose, played by a G.I Joe.


  1. You have no idea how happy you've just made me.

    A few days ago I was thinking about how we had to climb that stupid rope in P.E. and I could never do it. Then it popped into my head that there was a book I had YEARS ago about somebody who couldn't do it, then miraculously did it but recited a poem and fell off.

    It was driving me MAD trying to remember what book it was... it's so weird that I came across your post today! :)

    1. Ha, that's pretty amazing! Glad I could help you out!