Top positive review
A Fancy Nancy Chapter Book
Reviewed in the United States on August 4, 2012
Let me start by saying that my almost 6-year-old loved this book, but the Fancy Nancy moniker assured us of that before we even opened to the first page. As to Daddy and I, who read the book to her, we enjoyed it, but agreed that it lacked much of the charm of the Fancy Nancy series.
The story takes Nancy through three "mysteries" that she and Bree have decided to solve, a la the famous Nancy Drew. While this was sort of cute for us adults who have a knowledge of Nancy Drew, the many, many references to Nancy Drew went right over my 5-year-old's head. She hasn't read Nancy Drew, and those books are geared toward older kids. While attempting to solve one mystery, Nancy and Bree are concerned that they are going to get caught in a "booby trap." While Jane O'Connor is usually great about defining the "fancy" words in her books, she doesn't provide a definition for this term, yet uses it repeatedly as an important plot device. Likewise, with other words in the book, I kept waiting to see the clarification of something as "fancy," but O'Connor didn't use the term. I realize that this chapter book is intended for an older child than the original Fancy Nancy series, but to leave out such seminal phrasing took some of the charm out of Nancy. Sure, she's growing up, but I missed her overzealousness from the original books.
The story is fun in its inclusion of characters from previous Fancy Nancy books, notably Bree and Rhonda and Wanda. But only brief mention is given to Mrs. DeVine (and she doesn't actually appear in the story), and Miss Glass is completely gone, replaced by Nancy's current teacher, Mr. Dudeny. While I have to give O'Connor credit for adding an adult male to the cast of characters, I didn't care much for the new teacher. First, I had difficulty determining the best pronunciation for his name (and I'm an English teacher, so if I'm having an issue with it, one can only imagine the difficulty an emerging reader would have). He calls the students in his class "Dudes," which just made it seem to me that O'Connor was working too hard to be cute. In fact, he calls them Dudes so often that it actually becomes annoying.
Another new character to the Nancy Clancy world is a classmate named Grace. I was a bit bothered by a somewhat one-dimensional portrayal of Grace as smart, competitive, and conniving. Nancy voices a clear dislike for Grace that really doesn't have any reasoning behind it and doesn't seem to fit in with Nancy's character. I wanted there to be a lesson there, or at least I don't want a story that perpetuates the idea that smart girls are mean-spirited and unlikable and can't get along with each other.
Another problem I had with the story is that, while attempting to solve one of the mysteries, Nancy and Bree have to rely not just on photographs, but photographs that have been taken on a film camera which Bree's mother takes to get developed. This provides a necessary delay in the action of the story, but I have to wonder how many kids today actually have had any experience with film and an actual delay between taking and viewing pictures.
The mysteries in the story are neither too simple nor too complex. O'Connor provides just enough clues for young readers to make logical guesses about the outcomes, and the clues are well spaced within the story.
I would have rated this 3.5 stars if given the option, but it definitely leans closer to a 4 than a 3. We will definitely be purchasing the next Nancy Clancy story and it'll be interesting to see how my daughter grows into the books and how O'Connor grows into a storyteller for this older age set.