People who are into reading are asked some questions frequently.
‘What is your favourite book?’ is a ludicrous question. You can’t make us choose!
The question ‘What are you currently reading?’ would be better. And while ‘What was the first book you read?’ is asked casually and frequently (my answer: it was Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume) not many have asked me this:
The first book you ever loved?
Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry was the first book I ever loved. And I still do. Perhaps most of you aren’t familiar with this savvy 10-year-old, but I sure was. Discovering the outspoken and brutally candid Anastasia Krupnik on the shelf of my school library as a 5th grader was an exhilarating experience
I was shy and introvert. She was confident, outspoken, and knew E.E. Cummings. I wanted to be so as well.
You were either like her, maybe you still are. Or maybe, you have a kid just like her: brassy, stubborn, and irrepressible.
I went through the book again a while back. Lowry has given us a heroine who evokes nostalgia and deja vu, at least for me.
Anastasia has no camouflage. She isn’t one of those kid protagonists who is wise beyond her years. She is honest. She even dislikes her teacher, like any normal 10-year-old probably would. She is full of flaws, but never afraid to change and become better.
You were either like her, or maybe you still are. Or maybe, you have a kid just like her: brassy, stubborn, and irrepressible. The freckle-faced dynamo is also very, very opinionated. When her teacher makes Robert, a classmate, read his poem in front of the class, everybody applauds him. Everybody, except Anastasia.
Anastasia hates his poem because she knows it’s a lie. Robert writes about his dog and the dog is apparently a nightmare.
Anastasia’s poem, sadly, gets an F. But it is a wonderful poem. Whose fault is it that her teacher doesn’t know who E.E. Cummings is? Anastasia is artsy, and when given the poem assignment, she becomes dreamy and goes a bit off-grid. But she comes up with a great poem, one in which she describes as ‘a poem about sounds’ and gets an ‘F’. And at the end of the day, the ‘F’ is made into a ‘Fabulous’ by her father.
Anastasia remains comical, sincere, and ineffably honest, not only throughout the book, but the whole series. She’s not a perfect 10-year-old, but which 10-year-old ever wanted to be so? Knowing Anastasia has been one of the best things in my life.
And heavens, was her poem lovely!
hush hush the sea-soft night is aswim
with the wrinkle squirm creatures listen!
to them more smooth in the moistly dark
Here in the whisperwarm wet
It undeniably deserved that ‘Fabulous’.
(Gurung is based in Pokhara).