Fancy Nancy


Written by Jane O’Connor, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

HarperCollins, 2006

I love being fancy.  My favorite color is fuchsia. That’s a fancy way of saying purple.

The plot in a nutshell:  Nancy embraces her girly side, surrounding herself with all things fancy and helping her family to be more fabulous.

No class would ever be boring when your teacher is wearing a tutu.

No class would ever be boring when your teacher is wearing a tutu.

Nancy loves being fancy and wants to share this love with her family, by giving ‘Fancy’ classes.  They attend her classes and plan a family outing to show off their new upscale skills.  They stroll into their local burger joint like silly royalty and are having a wonderful time, until Nancy drops a tray of parfaits, which she feels spoils it all.  Back home, we see the family, back in their regular clothes, enjoying some special time together and Nancy’s parents make sure she knows that they love her for who she really is, fancy or not.

With this book, author Jane O’Connor launched a franchise, which now comprises fifty books (with titles like Fancy Nancy, Explorer Extraordinaire and Fancy Nancy: Spectacular Spectacles), toys, games, a clothing line, an Off-Broadway musical and apparently, an upcoming live-action movie.  And it’s not too hard to see why.  There’s something to this whole ‘fancy’ thing.  My boss takes us to high tea at Christmastime and my inner Nancy comes out, for sure.  I eat fresh baked scones with clotted cream, drink Orange Vanilla tea poured from a flowery china tea pot and sometimes there is even a person there playing the harp.  (Swank!)  We call each other dah-ling and okay, I sometimes put my pinky up as I sip.  I feel that Nancy would certainly approve of this.

Ms. O’Connor is taking Nancy to a new level and graduating her to chapter books and I’m happy to hear that Robin Preiss Glasser will continue as Nancy’s artist.  She does a wonderful job of bringing us into Nancy’s glitzy world in a playful and innocent way, so that it stays far away from the false (and often too adult) glam world of child beauty pageants that we see on reality TV.

I’ve seen criticism that this book reinforces girly stereotypes and is part of the ‘princess culture’ machine.  Gotta be honest here – I’m just not seeing it.  Nancy enjoys the swanky stuff because it’s fun, not because she feels she needs to do it for acceptance.  Most women I know get a kick out of dressing up and going somewhere nice (myself included) and it doesn’t mean they’re shallow.   As with many things in life, it’s all about balance & perspective.  The big positive here is her family’s willingness to learn and participate in what she loves…and I think they would have been equally on board if, instead of fanciness, it was ninja skills or yoga or chemistry or something else she was bringing to the table.  If every child got that level of encouragement from their family and friends, just imagine what they could all grow up to accomplish!

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that it’s fun to share the things we love with the people we love, especially when they fully support our enthusiasm.


4 thoughts on “Fancy Nancy

  1. I’m delighted (delighted is a fancy word for really happy) to read your positive review of Fancy Nancy. We love the Fancy Nancy series over here. And I’m with you on the illustrations. Wonderfully done! Speaking of illustrators, check out the Ladybug Girl series. We like the books a lot, but what really strikes me in this series is David Soman’s artistry. He does a great job of depicting emotion in relatively simple drawings. (This isn’t a ‘put this in your routine’ suggestion!)

    • Thanks for the recommendation on Ladybug Girl! I’ve added it to my (evergrowing) must-read list. I’ve seen these books before in the store, but never picked one up. Our library carries several so I’ll look into them. I always love to get recommendations!

      I’ve only read a few of the Fancy Nancy books (the Fancy Nancy alphabet is my favorite) but I’ve really enjoyed all the ones I’ve read. Robin Preiss Glasser also did the illustrations for A is for Abigail, which was my favorite of the alphabet books I reviewed back in April. Funny to see her art style being used to draw Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhardt.

  2. This book sounds wonderful and a great lesson for families. It reminds me of my and my then-boyfriend going to Burger King right after a wedding in our fancy clothes. It was really fun and it makes me want to do something like that again!

    • Fun! Jack & I went to an arcade on Prom Night, so we got to play video games in our formal wear. But then, we’re both in touch with our inner Nancy. 🙂

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