The Fancy Nancy Books
written by Jane O'Connor
illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Some Fancy Nancy books:

Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy phenomenon
illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8...and female!

Fancy Nancy: A cure for princess-itis???

It's hard to believe that the first Fancy Nancy book came out in 2005. (It's now mid-2009.) Counting picture books and readers, it now looks like there are 20 of them, maybe more!

At the risk of understatement, Jane O'Connor's wonderful character has struck a chord.

But here's the point I want to make: I don't think Fancy Nancy has struck a chord only with girls. I think she's struck a chord with parents as well.

We're now 9 awful years into the manufactured "Disney Princess" phenomenon. No doubt the top "career" choice for girls age 2 to 10 is now Princess. God help these girls when they grow up and find out how few princes are actually available for marriage!

Many parents are turned off by the whole thing yet despair of any way to avoid it, outside of selling the television and moving to Antarctica.

Enter the Fancy Nancy books.

Clearly, the central appeal of the whole princess thing is being singled out as special. That and all the princess accessories.

Well, Fancy Nancy's favorite word is "accessories," and yet the word "princess" never appears (that I can find) in her books! Fancy Nancy is all about singling herself out as special. She gleefully does the hard work of being fancy, never expecting anyone else to do it for her.

I think that's remarkably healthy.

On the odd chance that you haven't run across them yet, you'll know the Fancy Nancy books by the glitter on the cover, not to mention Nancy's extravagant, self-designed outfits. There will be a parasol or a plume or a tiara (or some combination) along with an abundance of bows in the hair and some fancy-dancy shoes. (Once you've seen a single Fancy Nancy book, it'll be impossible for you to imagine anyone except Robin Preiss Glasser illustrating it.)

In the original, we meet Nancy in all her glory. She's introduced in her bedroom, self-decorated so as to make your daughter swoon. (Fancy Nancy has no doubt inspired a billion art projects.)

Review continues below.

Different costumes collaged from the Fancy Nancy books

She tells us, "I love being fancy." Her family, though, is decidedly un-fancy. She decides they need fancy lessons. And being the kind of family we all should be, they indulge her.

Once graduated, they wear their fancy duds out to a celebratory fancy dinner at the local pizza joint.

They make quite the impression. They eat with their pinkies extended and call each other "darling," per Nancy's instructions.

In Bonjour, Butterfly, Nancy is excited about her best friend Bree's impending butterfly birthday party. It promises to be "exquisite," and Nancy will be going as an "azure" butterfly. Only it turns out Nancy's family has another commitment, her grandparents' 50th anniversary party.

Nancy puts on quite a pout (and knows she's doing it) but can't quite keep it up once she sees Grandma and Grandpa. Then the party turns out to be fancy enough (Nancy can see "fancy" in just about anything, so on one fantastic level the books are about a positive outlook), and everything turns out just fine.

(Nancy, by the way, is a good kid, with excellent moral sense. She can behave poorly on occasion, but knows it and knows how to apologize.)

Now Fancy Nancy is all about fancy words - she'll say "fuschia" instead of "purple" - so at some point someone smart realized that Nancy was a natural for vocabulary-building. In Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words: From Accessories to Zany she makes learning new words fun, instead of drudgery.

Relatedly, there are now a bunch of Fancy Nancy "I Can Read" books.

(If you bookmark Amazon's Jane O'Connor page you can keep track of new books as they come out and continue to feed your daughter the Fancy Nancy antidote to princess-itis!)

One request: don't get your daughter the Fancy Nancy books if you're not willing to indulge her "fanciness" at least some of the time, because that would just be cruel.

But, if you have it in your heart to let her wear the odd pair of ruby slippers every once in awhile, or you can see treating her to a large pink feather, or you'll put up with her draping an extra sheet over her bed and calling it a canopy, then you're an A+ fancy parent, and she just might reward you some day by not marrying a boy named Prince.

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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