The Museum: Susan Verde & Peter H. Reynolds
Have You Been Reading Aloud This Summer?

The Wonderful World of Fancy Nancy: Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser

Book: The Wonderful World of Fancy Nancy (4 book set)
Author: Jane O'Connor
Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser
Pages: ~30 each
Age Range: 3 to 8

My 3 year old daughter just wandered by and saw that I was looking at the Fancy Nancy website. She pointed to a picture and said "Oh! That's from my favorite book." And that's why I feel the need to write about this particular set of Fancy Nancy books. Because they have appeal for both children (girls, anyway) and parents. 

The Wonderful World of Fancy Nancy is a four-book set, including:

  • Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire (in which Nancy's class at school learns about poetry, and all of the students write their own poems to read at Family Day. Nancy and her best friend, Bree, turn their clubhouse into a Palace of Poetry)
  • Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist (in which Nancy spends her school vacation creating an art studio from her clubhouse, and emulates a different artist's style each day)
  • Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire (in which Nancy and Bree start a club for exploring the outdoors, and build their clubhouse)
  • Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day (in which Nancy turns her clubhouse into a super-deluxe spa to celebrate her mother's birthday - this one is my least favorite of the set)

Although there are a number of Fancy Nancy books published for different reading stages, these appear to fall into the text-heavy category of books that are still meant to be read to children, like picture books, but that feel like chapter books. Like the Berenstain Bears and Little Critter books, but with more panache. They don't use the limited vocabulary of easy readers (quite the contrary, in fact), but they have chapter-like divisions, lists, and callouts. They take longer to read than most picture books. I'm having success with them with a three year old, but I suspect that the real sweet spot is more like 4-6, with kids slightly older than that reading on their own. 

Each of the four titles was originally published between 2009 and 2011. They remain available in hardcover, but this new set includes slim paperback editions. This makes them wonderful travel books. They are light, but dense. We read Aspiring Artist frequently over the course of our recent vacation, and never tired of it. 

Here are the things that I like about this series (and the books published for this age level in particular):

  • The books are full of glitter and fancy clothes and dolls, but Nancy is also energetic and brave. She's realistic in her treatment of her younger sister (sometimes irritated, sometimes tolerant). She is fun. 
  • Jane O'Connor delights in the use of advanced vocabulary words, making these books great for real-aloud to word-thirsty preschoolers. I find it a tiny bit annoying that Nancy generally has to add "That's fancy for ..." after she uses a big word, but my daughter doesn't seem to mind it. And I can always leave those out, or explain a word myself, if I feel like it.
  • This set of books, at least, introduces nonfiction elements, while fully retaining Nancy's spirit of fun. In Aspiring Artist, Nancy learns about, and practices, the illustration styles of Degas, Monet, and others. In Poet Extraordinaire she learns about styles of poetry. In Explorer Extraordinaire she learns about ants and birds, trees and butterflies. 
  • Family and friends play a role, albeit a small role, with Nancy's younger sister tagging along from time to time, and her mother and neighbor rendering rare, but key, assistance. I especially like the non-fancy mother, who knows to buy glitter pens when her daughter is "glum." These books are part of a whole universe of books about Nancy and her friends and relations - offering me plenty of opportunities to keep my child entertained, and make connections between books. 

So there you have it. Books that my daughter loves, about a character she can encounter again and again in other books (including some designed for her to read to herself when she's a little bit older). Books that introduce tons of strong vocabulary words, as well as various facts and ideas, while somehow managing to never feel lesson-y. All in a portable, travel-friendly format. I think it's safe to say that we'll be traveling with Nancy again before the summer is over. Recommended!

Publisher: Harper (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook