Friday, February 17, 2017

In Praise of Fancy Nancy

Am I really about to write a blog post about Fancy Nancy? The day after writing about Shakespeare and Plutarch? Well, yes!

My daughter trotted home from the library one day with a couple of Fancy Nancy books.  If you aren't familiar with them, they're picture books about a little girl named Nancy Clancy who loves everything fancy.  She is growing up in a family that is, as she says, "plain."  

The first time I glanced at one of the books, I immediately set my mind against it.  First of all, there are sneaky definitions of words--Nancy will use a "fancy" word and then say "that's a fancy word for ______ in a parenthetical."  I thought that was annoying.  Second, I thought the books were probably just "twaddle"--the phrase used ubiquitously in homeschooling circles to describe books that are not very meaty or substantial.  

But we brought the book home and I read it to Annie.  And I fell in love with it! 

First, Nancy herself is pretty endearing.  She's unique.  She loves what she loves.  She loves fancy, girly things and her little ensembles are adorable. 

Second, and most importantly, I LOVE Nancy's parents.  Although they are "plain" (Nancy notes that they don't even get sprinkles on their ice cream!), her parents are fabulous.  They honor Nancy's individuality. When she becomes interested in art, they take her to an art museum, let her have a backyard Jackson Pollock-style painting party, and help Nancy and her friends put on an "exhibit" (hanging their pictures on a clothesline).  When Nancy decides her family needs to be fancier, her adorable parents let her give them "fancy lessons," and then they all go out to their favorite pizza joint for dinner--dressed to the nines, like movie stars. When Nancy decides she wants to get a "fancy" dog and not a plainer one, they let her dog-sit the neighbor's papillon--which causes Nancy to realize that a tiny dog like that really isn't right for her family (even though it's fancy). I fell completely in love with the way her parents respond to Nancy.   

Because, you know, not all parents would respond to her that way.  Nancy could instead hear these things:

Artists don't make money.  
Jackson Pollock was weird.  He didn't create real art. (I actually am open to debating that topic because I'm really not a modernist, but that's another discussion for another day. The question is: what's real art, right?)
No, you can't make a mess in the backyard with paint.
Because I said so.
You cannot get a small dog and that's that. 
No, we aren't going to go out to dinner dressed like this.
I don't have time to set up the paints for you.
No, we don't want lessons in how to be fancy.  Go do your homework.
No, you can't wear a tiara to the grocery store.

And so on.

Now, I'm not saying that children should have carte blanche on what to do or wear or where to go all the time, but Nancy doesn't run the show in the books.  She just has all sorts of ideas and inspirations, and her typically parents go with it! (In the dog book, they didn't get the dog she wanted; her parents were correct that it was the wrong breed--but they were open to letting her learn *why* it was the wrong breed.)

I enjoy seeing the differences between Nancy and her parents and seeing how they respond to her in each story.  It's refreshing and sweet.  So if you have a little girl who is kind of fancy (I sure do)--you might like Fancy Nancy, too!


  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Fancy Nancy books to Leah. My all-time favorite is when she gives her mother a makeover. You have to read it! :)

  2. We love Fancy Nancy! My favorite one is when she drops the entire tray of fancy sundaes and cries, so her parents take her home to eat homemade sundaes in their pajamas. What a sweet family!