January 17, 2006

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

Fancy Nancy is a picture book I picked up for my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter the other day. It's illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. The cover illustration shows a little girl with poofed-up hair wearing a tiara and a hair ribbon, high-heeled shoes with lacy socks, a lacy dress with a long train (really, a bedsheet tucked into a ribbon), and cat's-eye sunglasses. She's carrying an umbrella and a large feather. Let me be perfectly clear--this is not a too-little girl dressed up to be sexy for a beauty contest; this is a little girl who has dressed up to be "fancy" by her own lights, using the materials at hand.

I took one look, and said, "Good grief, that's Anne!"

It turns out that Nancy has a problem. She loves to be fancy: to dress in fancy clothes, with fancy accessories, to do fancy things, and to use fancy words. Her family, alas (a mother, a father, and a sister) are not fancy; in fact, they tend to the plain. It's a distressing situation, and so she arranges to give her family lessons in being fancy, culminating in the entire family going out to dinner dressed as fancy as they can (by Nancy's lights), calling each other "Darling" and extending their pinkies while eating their pizza. All eyes are upon them from the moment they enter the pizza parlor, and Nancy is sure that everything thinks they must be movie stars.

Allow me to describe the father's fancy attire. He's wearing one of his own pin-stripe suits, some kind of scarf tied around his neck sort like a cravat, and a top hat, and he's carrying a cane. Well, really, the top hot is a prop from Nancy's magic kit, meaning that it's far too small, and the cane is the magician's wand. He wears them with a certain flair and panache, and with oceans of good humor. (Good humor which I intend to lack, utterly lack, if push ever comes to shove. I am Not Fancy, and I intend to stay that way.)

Anne loves the book, not at all to my surprise. Jane captured her feelings about it, thus:

Well, you see, I really like it because it is lovely and so beautiful. It is my favorite book in the world. I have a chair like her and I do fancy just like her. I do it all the time. She makes her family so beautiful.

The chair Anne mentions is one of those bent-wire chairs with a heart-shaped back and little round black seat, the kind that's supposed to go with a vanity table. It used to be my mother-in-law's, but somehow Anne inherited during Mom's recent move. And indeed, Fancy Nancy has one just like it, except that Nancy's is pink and Anne's is brass. That only makes Nancy's chair better, of course.

Having gotten Anne's opinion, Jane went on to get David's; he's my eldest at going-on-nine. Here's what he had to say:

It wasn't really a good book for boys because mostly it is all about a girl. It is not very interesting but TOO fancy. She did not have any brothers so they wouldn't have to dress up. I do not like to dress up. I would recommend this book for girls ONLY.

Do you detect a certain lack of enthusiasm? I have to admit, I'd agree with him completely, except that I now have a fancy daughter. Anne sometimes leaves Jane and I at a loss--Jane's no more fancy than I am--but I'm really very sorry that my own mother didn't live long enough to know Anne. I think they'd have understood each other.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 17, 2006 08:39 PM