Fancy Nancy Is Not At All What I Expected—And That’s a Good Thing

She's fancy and so much more! Get to know this empowering heroine.
By Ashley Austrew
Feb 07, 2019

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Fancy Nancy Is Not At All What I Expected—And That’s a Good Thing

Feb 07, 2019

Being the mom of a 7-year-old girl means I’m at war with most things pink and frilly. To some, this might seem like an odd approach to raising a daughter, but when the world continually tells girls that they must always be pretty, polite, and solely interested in princesses and makeup, it’s normal to intentionally look for ways to counteract that message. My daughter has been exposed to her fair share of Disney princesses and classic fairy tales, but when I choose new books for us to read, I try to avoid stories that push stereotypical ideas about what it means to be a girl. So you can imagine the apprehension I felt when my daughter developed a fascination with a character called Fancy Nancy.

At first glance, Fancy Nancy is the definition of a “girly-girl.” On the covers of the books, she’s often wearing dresses, heels, and sparkles. The “A” in the title Fancy Nancy is topped with a crown. I was fully prepared to open the first book and find another mundane story about a little girl whose biggest passions are tutus and jewelry. But that’s not what I found at all, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was totally wrong about Fancy Nancy. Here’s why:

1. The books are a mini vocabulary lesson

Fancy Nancy talks in her very own fancy language that mixes in French words, multi-syllable words, and complex phrases. Throughout the books, she translates her own “fancy” language for young readers, which results in kids being exposed to and gaining an understanding of new words and phrases without even realizing it. “We play mermaids all the time,” Nancy explains in Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet. “Jojo’s kiddie pool is our lagoon — a lagoon is a fancy kind of lake.”

2. Fancy Nancy is a real kid

Nancy is supposed to be 6 years old, but she embodies the imagination, creativity, and adorable recklessness of every child in the toddler through preschool age range. In the original book, Nancy gives her entire family fancy makeovers — a familiar scene for anyone with a kid who loves imaginative play — and then they all go out to dinner in their fancy clothes and she spills a tray of ice cream because that’s what kids do.

But it’s not just the big scenes that make Nancy feel so real. It’s also moments like the one in Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet when Nancy is riding on the front of her mother’s shopping cart at the grocery store, wearing her ballet clothes and cowgirl boots and using her blanket to do her best impression of a weeping willow. That scene in the book reminded me so much of my own dramatic, imaginative daughter that I almost couldn’t read through my laughter.

3. Nancy teaches kids how to deal with disappointment

Things rarely go according to plan for Nancy. In Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet, she desperately wants to dance the part of the mermaid in her ballet recital, but she gets cast as a tree. Things get even more complicated when her best friend gets chosen to be a mermaid. Nancy feels disappointed and even a little jealous. But she decides to be supportive of her friend, and she learns that her role as a tree is actually an inspiring one that lets her wear a pretty, flowy costume and feel moved by the music. Almost every Fancy Nancy book deals with situations where Nancy is forced to cope with change, friendship difficulties, and tough moments, and she shows kids how to make peace with their hard feelings and handle them with grace. (Browse the Fancy Nancy book series.)

4. Nancy helps kids see the value of being yourself

Nancy is not fancy because anyone is pushing her into it or because she thinks that is the only way to be. She’s fancy because she likes being that way. She even mentions in Fancy Nancy that no one in her family is fancy like she is. Rather than being influenced by anyone or trying to live up to an ideal, Nancy wears the things she likes, talks the way she wants to, participates in the activities she enjoys and has a take-charge attitude that leads her to go after what she really wants. The underlying message of the Fancy Nancy series is not that girls should be like Nancy; it’s that girls (and boys) should be like themselves. And that’s the kind of message I want my own daughter to see over and over again.

Shop the Fancy Nancy Series

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