A Fictional Friend for my Redheaded (Pre-)Readers

Reading Fancy Nancy

The New Year began on a high note: my daughters have forgotten how disappointed they were when they received books for Christmas.  They have wanted marathon reading sessions to the point that I have committed some of the new books to memory, and, in combination with an impending cold, I am losing my voice from reading aloud.

My girls love their new Fancy Nancy books (I Can Read, Level 1) which are written by Jane O’Connor with illustrations based on the artwork of Robin Preiss Glasser.  These books feature a precocious redheaded child named Nancy who loves being “fancy” in everything from the way she dresses to the vocabulary she uses.  The level 1 books are for beginning readers, like my five-year-olds, who are starting to sound out words as they read them.

Nancy is a fun fictional friend for my twins because she is an imaginative, intelligent child who finds herself in sticky situations familiar to real children, such as lying, giving herself a lopsided haircut, feeling excluded, and being envious of what others have.  Also, my daughters get a kick out of the fact that she has red curly hair just like they do.

So, my daughters like Fancy Nancy, and I like her books because they teach my children new words through cute stories.  The new favorite Fancy Nancy book in our house is Pajama Day, in which Nancy and her friends get to wear pajamas to class.  It begins:

‘Class, don’t forget!… Tomorrow is…’

‘Pajama Day!’ we shout in unison.  (That’s a fancy word for all together.).

As we read this story, my daughters, who wore their Batman pajamas to their preschool last week, shout “Pajama Day” to the tune of “Mahna Mahna” from The Muppets.

My twins’ least favorite book of the new Fancy Nancy Level 1 books is My Family History, in which Nancy embellishes a report about her great-grandpa.  It begins:

Do you know about your ancestors?

They are people in your family

who lived long ago

(You say it like this: ANN-sess-terz.)

Isn’t that a great fancy word?

My daughters thought that “ancestors” was a great-sounding, but boring word.  One of them explained, “Well, they aren’t here anymore.  I don’t know them because their bodies are broken.”  It was hard to describe why our ancestors matter to a pair of five-year-olds, a difficult concept even for adults to grasp, as I discussed in my post, Uncovering Our Roots: Why Does Family History Matter?

They liked the rest of the story, though, particularly the part where Nancy gets herself into a bind by lying about her great-grandfather’s history to turn his ordinary story into an extraordinary one.  My five-year-olds might not understand the significance of family history just yet, but they most certainly understand the importance of telling the truth!

We spent much of the last few days reading these books together.  As Fancy Nancy would probably conclude, “The experience was invaluable!  That’s a fancy word for very good.”

My youngest likes to look at the pictures
My youngest likes to look at the pictures



  1. My 4-yo is a reluctant one to sit down for reading, but she will do it with pleasure for Fancy Nancy! I’m a huge fan of any kind of children’s book that brings “big words” into the text. I wish more of them did – kids can handle it. Also- Batman Pajamas are awesome. My 4-yo just pulled through a Spiderman and then Wonder Woman phase. I’ve enjoyed learning about that whole world, too.

  2. First of all, can I say how thrilled I am that your daughters have Batman pajamas! Anyways, my oldest daughter just missed the beginnings of Fancy Nancy. My 5 year old is a big reader already and a bit beyond them at this point. She taught herself. She’s moved on to Junie B. Jones and the oldest is into her millionth Warrior Cat book. My son is now the one we take pleasure in reading to because he can’t yet and he really loves them. My oldest doesn’t like to get books anymore because she likes to pick her own (although, her Warrior Cats would be the exception but someone forgot to wrap them and put them under the tree and they had to be given to her unceremoniously the next day) but everyone one else loves them and Barnes & Noble gift cards are good crowd pleasers too. I know I am lucky with those three.

    1. My girls are all about Batman! They have pajamas, loads of T-shirts, and even Halloween costumes (I sent you a pic via Twitter).

      I’m so impressed by how much your five-year-old is reading! My girls are sounding out words and can read some of them, but they can’t read full sentences unless the sentences are very simple (and it’s possible they’ve just memorized it). Barnes & Noble gift cards are a good idea. I should consider that for next year.

  3. Fancy Nancy books are such a gift. I introduced my preschool nieces a few months ago. Already they ask for their sandwiches fancy like Nancy (with an olive and toothpick). They adore the illustrations and new words like “divine” and “au revoir”, too. I heard some book stores have Fancy Nancy tea parties where the kids come dressed up, but haven’t found one yet. Cheers!

  4. It’s great to see what kids like in books. I’ll be publishing my first children’s novel at the end of this month as a birthday present to my mother–shh! Hopefully, it will be as successful as she keeps saying it would be, since last year when I wrote her the first picture book for Christmas!

  5. I love the photos of your girls. I like the fact their hair is long! My mom cut mine short so she would not have to deal with it!haha
    Ok. You know me and ancestry-I think I might have a way to assist you in explaining the ancestor term. Maybe….You might could eplain the fact if it was not for ancestors, we would not be here. We owe them our very existence..OK that might sound to dramatic..I loved this write up though. By the way, I gave an entire genealogy booklet I made to my nephew about “our family” who graduated from high school with a framed professional photo of one of the ships his ancestors came on from Europe and also a $50 gift card for Itunes….Guess what was the “biggest” hit for him? haha I have to think Genealogy might just have to take a back seat until a person is at least 30 years old or just grew up with a mom that loved it. I have met some friends from my genealogy work that go with their children every weekend taking photos of grave sites! In fact one lady I know that took photos for me from Indiana actually camped over night on the cemetery grounds!!!!

    1. My girls would never let me cut it! They say, “All girls have long hair.” I am able to give very compelling counterexamples, but they’re sticking with this gender stereotype for now. They learned it from the other kids at preschool.

      I think you’re right that it takes time for people to appreciate their family history. My kids will understand eventually, hopefully before they’re 30!

      1. I am sure they will. My boys and husband on the other hand call me “The Gravebuster!” They even sing the song for me, “Who you gonna call?????” just to get under my skin….lol

  6. So glad your girls are enjoying their bookish Christmas gifts, now! Reading aloud is so much fun, isn’t it? Fancy Nancy sounds like a great fictional friend for little girls – I’m sure my little one will enjoy meeting and getting to know her one day!

    1. The Fancy Nancy books are a lot of fun. It appeals to both of my twins. One is very verbal and loves learning new words, while the other loves dress-up and imaginative play. I hope your little one will love Nancy as much as my twins do!

    1. Thanks for commenting! Fancy Nancy is wonderful, and I was pleased to find that there are so many books out there. We also got the Dress Up app for the iPad.

    1. You were right! Once the “wow” factor of their new toys had faded a bit after a few days of play, my girls showed greater appreciation for their new books. They don’t grow tired of their books as quickly as they grow tired of toys.

  7. The books sound like they make great teachers for children and they do it in such a fun way. I always wanted to illustrate a children’s book and have a character already drawn with the beginning of a storyline. So someday when I retire, I might give it a try. Weaving in the morals will be the challenge. My character’s name is Popsicle and he is a little green dinosaur. Your kids are darling and these are precious pictures. It is good they are finding the books pure enjoyment.

  8. I’m glad they stopped being disappointed! My parents had it pretty easy buying gifts for me for Christmas. “Books, please!” was my answer to what I wanted for Christmas. Kind of weird for a little kid to want books instead of shiny toys, I guess, but I think every kid should know the joys of reading and imagining worlds that aren’t their own. 🙂

  9. How cute! My almost 12 year old redhead was channeling Anne of Green Gables today by wearing her hair in braids. Sadly she has not read the book so I had to share the tale of Gilbert pulling one of Anne’s braids and calling her carrots. We read a lot of Madeline when she was younger.

    1. It’s a wonderful series to read with young children. My girls enjoy reading about Nancy’s dilemmas (a word they recently learned while reading one of these books) and talking about how they would act in the same situations. It’s fun.

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