In the world of children’s literature, there are a few names that you often hear repeated over and over again. For the younger girls ages 3-7, Fancy Nancy is one of those names. My younger daughter, who is now 5, absolutely loves Fancy Nancy. Jane O’Connor created a truly fun character and then gave her a surprising amount of depth. Some might not consider Nancy a super strong character, but they would be wrong. These days, not only do we love reading Nancy books, we even have a collection of stories that we bought on audible that my daughter could listen to over and over again. I laugh when my daughter uses big words and then tells me “that’s fancy for….” just like they say throughout the Nancy books.
In the first book simply called “Fancy Nancy,” Nancy explains how she perceives the world around her and that “more is always better when it comes to being fancy.” In her world, being fancy makes her simply feel better. A personal favorite from this book is when she explains to her mother that “lace-trimmed socks do help me play soccer better.” She wants to teach her family how to be more like her, but when she trips over her own fancy shoes, she realizes that love is love no matter what.
Throughout that long-running series, Nancy learns a variety of lessons. In “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet,” Nancy has to learn about not always getting what you want and then also dealing with the evil green jealousy monster when someone close to you does. Both Nancy and her best friend, Bree, assume that they will get to be mermaids in the upcoming ballet because they are glamorous and like to play mermaid from time to time. When neither gets the role, they are shocked and Nancy is bummed to be playing a dreary, dull tree. When Bree gets to step into the role of mermaid at the last minute, Nancy is incredibly jealous. She “lies” to Bree and tells her that she is happy for her, but knows that deep down she is not. Nancy finds a way to still shine in her tree costume, which she decides is fabulous and not dull and dreary and the show is a smashing success.
Nancy learns a lesson about being kind to her sister in “Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique.” In this story, when Nancy goes shopping for her sister’s birthday present, she also wants to buy a fancy fan for herself, but doesn’t have enough money after buying her sister a gift. She decides to sell off some of her fabulous fashions to raise the money. She’s doing great until her sister decides that she wants a fancy necklace that Nancy has already promised to someone else. She doesn’t want her sister to be disappointed on her birthday so she goes over to the twins who purchased the necklace and asks if there is any way that she can “persuade” them to part with it so she can give it to her sister for her birthday. They do, but it means that she can’t afford her fan. Her father sees how kind she has been to her sister and surprises her with the fan as well.
In “Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl,” which is a part of the “I Can Read” collection, Nancy has to deal with a girl who hurts her feelings. Much to Nancy’s dismay, Nancy has been chosen for the relay team in this year’s Field Day at school. Despite her many natural talents, Nancy isn’t much of a runner. She’s afraid of letting her team down—especially after finding out that an unkind (that’s another word for mean) girl in her class is on the team too. With a little help from her dad, Nancy tries her best, stands up for herself, and makes a new friend.
Nancy wants everything to be fancy, but in “Fancy Nancy: My Family History,”she learns that making things up just so that they are fancy can hurt other people and that when you are supposed to be writing a report based on truth, exaggerating can turn into outright lying. Nancy and her classmates are learning about ancestors, “people who lived long ago.” Bree’s great-grandfather was a war hero. Robert’s great-grandmother is 101 and came to America on a ship that almost sank! When Nancy talks to her grandfather about her great-grandparents, she finds that “they were nice ordinary people.” “Ordinary?” Nancy thinks, “that’s like plain. I wish I had fancy ancestors.” She writes her report for school about her great-grandfather, but makes things up so he seems less ordinary. However, when she learns that Grandpa will be there to hear her read the report aloud she realizes she was dishonest. By the time her grandpa comes, she has written a new report that sticks to the truth.
One that we only recently learned about by listening to our audio version is “Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist.” After listening to it a few times, I felt the need to purchase it because it nicely taught about various artists and styles in a simple manner. Nancy is sad because Bree has gone on vacation for spring break, so her mother cheers her up with new glitter markers. Inspiration strikes and she decides to turn her clubhouse into an art studio filled with her creations. Inspiration strikes again when she goes to her dance class and realizes that the studio is full of posters of art by Edgar Degas. When she tells her neighbor about her art studio idea, she teaches Nancy about Claude Monet. Nancy also experiments with the styles of Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollack. She learns about various ways of allowing yourself to be inspired and visits the art museum. It is a marvelous way to show children the world of art.
A similar book that brings the world of poetry alive for young readers and encourages them to create their own anthologies of poems that they enjoy is “Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinare.” In this book, Nancy’s class is doing a survey of people’s favorite poems, which of course Nancy shares with the reader and then each child is supposed to write their own poem. From nursery rhymes to song lyrics, silly limericks to acrostics and odes. This book is a fun way to encourage children to start considering poetry and maybe even writing some themselves!
I could go on and on with these books, especially since the audio version has 31 different stories that we listen to over and over and over again, but instead I will simply say to give Nancy a chance, especially if you have a budding fashionista with a love of accessorizing like I do.