28th Sep 2010
Banned Books: Anastasia by Lois Lowry
I love the idea of Banned Books Week, which aims to promote and celebrate books that have been banned, challenged, or considered controversial for an assortment of reasons. But, perusing the list of the most frequently banned books, some of the outraged objections of parents, libraries and bookshops to seemingly innocent and innocuous books has left me baffled and bewildered.
Take, for example, the Anastasia series by Lois Lowry. A similarly bespectacled, bookwormish and overambitious child, when I discovered Anastasia at the local library during my primary school days, I was instantly intrigued. I was ten, the same age as Anastasia in the first book in the series, and, because I had one too, I empathised when she later acquired an adorable but frequently infuriating and attention-monopolising baby brother (readers loved Anastasia’s sibling, Sam, so much that he went on to star in his own series of books by Lois Lowry).
Throughout the entire series, which spanned from the publication of the first book, Anastasia Krupnik, in 1979, to the last instalment in 1995, Anastasia, Absolutely, our heroine is stubbornly independent and irrepressible. She has her own ideas and her own spin on each set of challenges in her day-to-day life, from coming up with some extra cash in Anastasia At Your Service to looking after her father and pox-riddled brother when her mother has to go away for work in Anastasia on Her Own. The books are insightful, comical, sweet and sincere, and even when Anastasia’s schemes collapse into confusion and chaos (occasionally necessitating parental intervention), the clear (but never patronising or intrusive) moral code to the stories meant things always work out in the end.
My favourite, Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst, is partly told through Anastasia’s notes for a school science project, in which she buys a bust of Freud at a garage sale and consults him on the various ups and downs of life for the Krupnik family. But for some over-protective parents, the rare instances of risqué language and references to pre-teen pressures to get up to adolescent-envying mischief such as stuffing bras were enough to warrant a campaign to get the books banned.
Although the series continues to be one of the ALA’s top 100 banned books of the last ten years, much of the outrage around Anastasia has mellowed; for the 1990-2000 list, the series was in the top 30. In the latest list from the last decade, they’ve been bumped to number 75. Without the werewolves, wizards or vampire sex so beloved by today’s teenage reader, Anastasia’s world seems like a far simpler time…
Post by Jane Bradley