Old Favorites: Sam and Anastasia Krupnik

Did you know that there’s a book dedicated to the kids in Weston?  It’s true! Here’s how it happened:

In 1991, author Lois Lowry was visiting the Weston Public Schools. At the time, her series about Anastasia Krupnik was very popular, and Ms. Lowry had also written one book about Anastasia’s  little brother, Sam.  She told her audience that she was working on a second Sam book.  In explaining the difficulties of creating a book, she shared how she had most of the story plotted–she knew that Sam was trying to make a new perfume for his mother’s birthday, that he was collecting samples of all the things she loved (although maybe not quite in the way his mother would have expected) and that he was saving the smelly items in a jar in his room. The problem was, she explained to the group, she had a great build-up, but she wasn’t quite sure how to end the story.

As she was explaining her problem to the crowd of fourth and fifth graders, there was a lively discussion about possibilities, until one kid in the audience raised his hand and said “why doesn’t it just blow up?” Ms. Lowry got a thoughtful look as she smiled…and apparently, the writer’s dilemma was solved.

About a year later, Attaboy, Sam! came out, complete with the dedication:

For the kids in Weston–thanks

Pretty cool, huh?

* * *

This week’s Old Favorite is actually a series, rather than one book.  Anastasia Krupnik (the first book) by Lois Lowry came out in 1984, and was about the ups and downs in the life of a ten-year-old girl. An only child, Anastasia loves keeping lists of important information in her green notebook. Upon discovering that her mother is pregnant, she instantly adds two new items to her “things I hate” list: “My parents” and “babies.” But as the year passes, Anastasia finds that the items on her lists keep moving around; by the time her baby brother Sam is born, the only thing left to hate is liver.  A very funny story that rings as true now as it did when it came out (gulp) 25 years ago.

Other titles about Anastasia include:

Anastasia Again!
Twelve-year-old Anastasia is convinced that her family’s move to the suburbs will be the beginning of the end. How can she possibly accept split-level houses with matching furniture, or mothers whose biggest worry is ring around collar? But her new home brings many surprises, not to mention a cute boy who lives down the street. Is it possible that surburbia has more to offer than Anastasia had expected?

Anastasia at Your Service
A long, boring summer–that’s what Anastasia has to look forward to. She’s thrilled when old Mrs. Bellingham answers her ad for a job as a Lady’s Companion. Anastasia is sure her troubles are over–she’ll be busy and earn money!  But she doesn’t expect to have to polish silver and serve at Mrs. Bellingham’s granddaughter’s birthday party as a maid! As if that isn’t bad enough, she accidentally drops a piece of silverware down the garbage disposal and must use her earnings to pay for it! Is the summer destined to be a disaster?

Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst
No one understands thirteen-year-old Anastasia, least of all her parents and her little brother, Sam,. They’re such an embarrassment. Why can’t they be normal, like Anastasia? Unless she’s the abnormal one?  Though her parents insist she’s normal and won’t send her to an analyst, that doesn’t stop Anastasia. What will happen if they find out that Anastasia is secretly telling her troubles to the most famous analyst in the world?

Anastasia On Her Own
Help! Anastasia’s mother must organize her chaotic life. So Anastasia and her father invent the solution: the Krupnik Family Nonsexist Housekeeping Schedule. But when Mrs. Krupnik goes to California on a ten-day business trip, Anastasia finds that the problem isn’t solved at all. It’s hard to stick to a schedule  when Sam comes down with the chicken pox and her father’s former girlfriend invites herself to dinner. How is Anastasia supposed to cope with these interruptions when she’s planning her first dream-date dinner for Steve Harvey? It’s a cinch. As long as she sticks to the Krupnik Romantic Dinner Week Schedule, what could possibly go wrong?

Anastasia Has the Answers
. That’s how Anastasia Krupnik feels whenever she tries to climb the ropes in gym class. How come everyone else can climb up those hateful ropes? Since Anastasia has decided to become a journalist, it should be easy to answer most questions.  After some research, finally Anastasia thinks she has the answers! When a team of foreign educators comes to visit her school, she plans a big surprise that will amaze her classmates, Ms. Willoughby, and the visitors. What will she do when her big moment arrives?

Anastasia’s Chosen Career
Anastasia has exactly one week to work on her school assignment called “My Chosen Career.” Determined to be a bookstore owner, she must first develop poise and self-confidence. So Anastasia takes the plunge and spends her life savings on a modeling course. She has one week to interview a bookstore owner, write a report, and complete the course. Luckily her new friend Henry is with her most of the way. Is Anastasia destined to be a successful bookstore owner or a glamorous model? Only Anastasia has the answers!

Anastasia at This Address
When thirteen-year-old Anastasia sees an intriguing ad in a personal column, she decides to write back, even though it means stretching the truth more than a little bit.  (Like, she’s really not 26!) So what if her best friends have given up on boys. Anastasia is ready for romance. But is she ready for a pen pal who wants to meet her?

Anastasia, Absolutely
The trouble begins when Anastasia goes to the mailbox with two packages and her new dog, Sleuth. It’s there that she accidentally puts the bag of dog droppings into the mailbox instead of her mother’s package. When she realizes her mistake, Anastasia uses her school Values Class experience to help her decide what to do. But when the police take the corner mailbox, Anastasia’s sure she’s committed a crime that will land her in jail.

Books about Sam Krupnik:

All About Sam
Everyone knows Sam Krupnik. He’s Anastasia’s pesky but lovable younger brother. This is Sam’s big chance to tell things exactly the way he sees them.  He has his own ideas about haircuts, nursery school, getting shots, and not eating broccoli.  Sam thinks a lot about being bigger and stronger, about secret codes and show-and-tell. Make way for your little brother, Anastasia.  Here for the first time is Sam Krupnik’s life story.

Attaboy, Sam!
Sam is now a precocious preschooler.  Hearing that Mom wants only handmade birthday gifts AND that her favorite perfume is no longer available, Sam knows what to give her!  Ever-alert to what Mom says smells good, he keeps plastic bags at the ready and manages to combine a bit of sea water, one of Dad’s old pipes, chicken soup, tissues that have been used for cleaning up a baby (both ends), and some yeast. His concern over the increasingly noxious odor competes with his truly childlike hope that somehow it will all come right. It doesn’t. Still, in the end, Sam saves the day in a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

See You Around, Sam
Sam is almost five, and he’s running away to Alaska, all because his mother won’t let him wear his plastic fangs in the house (she has fangphobia). He plans to lie around in piles with the walruses, who don’t mind fangs. Before he can go, he wants to visit the  neighborhood to say goodbye. Under the watchful eye of his mother and his loving neighbors, Sam aborts his plan after learning a few things about life.

Zooman Sam
Sam is all set for Future Job Day at school. He already knows that he wants to be a zookeeper when he grows up. Sam’s mother and Anastasia help him make a terrific costume to wear– so terrific Sam wants to wear it all the time. Luckily Sam’s teacher helps out by suggesting that he tell the class about a different animal each day. Sam likes being the center of attention, but can he keep on being Zooman Sam forever?

* * *

Some old favorites aren’t adventures or mysteries or fantasies–they’re books that are like an old coat or a fuzzy blanket that feel comfortable to be around.  That’s what Sam and Anastasia are.  Like Fudge and Peter Hatcher, Beezus and Ramona Quimby or The Pain and The Great One, these siblings can make you laugh out loud…even when they’re learning how life works.

The Anastasia books are great for kids in grades four and up; as Anastasia gets older, so do the topics of the books.  The Sam books are perfect as read-alouds to first or second graders; for third grade and up to read to themselves or for fans of Anastasia who want the “other” side to the story.  Try one, and see what you think!



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