Tag Archives: Fancy Nancy

Sometimes Books Hold Mom’s Stories Too

My children can’t always be held accountable for hanging onto things. When they finally feel inspired, I look into their bin of discarded ponies, plastic fast food meal toys, and assorted paper bits, and swell with glee to be rid of it all. But then my eyes wander and settle on the pile of books sitting amidst the junk—books my child feels she has outgrown. I see a pile of memories, a past that I can no longer get back and already feels worlds away. My heart sinks and my chest swells with that feeling of pressure you hold back when you’re about to cry.

Some books you never want to see again. Some books you read to your kids a million times and every word pains you. But when I looked at the Mercy Watson series teetering on my daughter’s pile of junk, I immediately remembered when my daughter wanted them. They were her first chapter books and a transition to something so much older. I felt sad and excited at the same time when we started reading them, the same way I felt when my son and I started Nate the Great. It meant something to be graduating from picture books just like it means something that my kids’ shelves are now mostly covered in more difficult books they can read alone. Each new stage takes them further away from me and those nights long ago when I’d point to words and show them in earnest how to understand the world.ohmercy

My daughter would never admit in a million years that she loved pigs at the time we started Mercy Watson, but she did—because they were pink. We’d snuggle in her bed at night and read several chapters. I didn’t do it for every book, but for these books, I had a special voice for every character. Crotchety Eugenia sounded like my childhood friend’s grandmother. We began those books not long after my daughter got her big girl bed. But what I remember more is when my daughter started reading them herself, a sign of the passage of time that I must have missed for she still looked like my baby to me. How could she possibly be reading them to herself?

I’ve read to my kids every night since they could sit up. Since they were old enough to talk, we’ve spent the time after bedtime stories talking about their day, escaping and connecting. So the books we’ve read remind me of those times too—conversations about not feeling wanted that have broken my heart, the revelation of getting in trouble at school after pretending all afternoon that things were fine, and worry upon worry about the world.

I snatched those Mercy Watson books from the pile yesterday. And there will be more. Some books have too many memories attached of nights with my kids, eras that have ended. For now Fancy Nancy still sits on my daughter’s shelf. I remember that phase when my daughter wore skirts over pants, strands of long beads, glasses with large frames, and purple plastic heels. It’s an image burned into my memory because it was a phase that passed too quickly. The books reminded me of the preschool her and they always will. I’ll always have images of her running through the yard singing in a tutu and pink cowboy boots or playing soccer in all her finery with her brother on the driveway, but I’ll never live that again. I imagine soon those books will end up on my shelves too. Some things I’m just not ready to let go.

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Fancy Nancy: An Author Reading I Couldn’t Miss

When I learned Jane O’Connor, author of the Fancy Nancy picture books, planned a book reading at our local bookstore, I was ecstatic, elated, overjoyed. For those of you not familiar with her books, that’s a fancy way of saying I was pretty excited and you can bet I planned to be there.

But my daughter had a soccer game at the same time and she didn’t want to miss it. Her grandfather could see her play for once. That was special. I was heartbroken, deflated, forlorn. Pretty much, I was bummed.

I have loved Fancy Nancy since the first time I read it to her, choking over the last lines about love and its simplicity between mother and child. And one hundred times later, I still do.

Of all of the books that my daughter will one day outgrow, none of the Fancy Nancy picture books will ever be parted with. Tucked within the pages lay too many memories of our heads on her pillow, laughing at Nancy’s dramatics, aching over her schoolgirl troubles, and relating all too well to a little girl who in so many ways is just like the little girl lying beside me and also the little girl I once was.

I love the books because my daughter can play in pink cowboy boots and a tutu while hunting for bugs or riding her bike. She loves dress-up as much as she loves Star Wars. Her scraped knees and purple bruises accent her accessories: wrists full of mismatched bracelets, striped leg warmers, and don’t forget those high-heel shoes.

So when the opportunity came to hear the author of these books speak, I was tickled pink. Her writing makes me laugh, smile, and choke back tears. And it will always make me think of my daughter and some quiet times together.

When Jane O’Connor revealed who inspired the character of Fancy Nancy, I had a feeling I knew. Not her kids, she had sons. Not her grandchildren, she doesn’t have any yet. It was her. She showed a picture of a daintily dressed young Jane with a bandage on her knee and said her legs always displayed cuts and bruises. It’s no wonder she knows Fancy Nancy so well.

Jane O'Connor with a childhood photo

Jane O’Connor displays a childhood photo, her inspiration for Fancy Nancy.

I stood alone in a packed crowd and watched with all the giddy admiration of a starry-eyed six-year-old. I waited patiently in line for an hour for Jane O’Connor to sign my daughter’s books, which she quickly signed in bright pink marker.

When my daughter said she was going to her soccer game, it was OK. I knew seeing Jane O’Connor’s book reading meant more to me. For my six-year-old, it didn’t matter. Mom brings the books to life at night.

For me, Jane O’Connor is the woman responsible. She brings to life the memories, the connection between character, my little girl, and my own childhood.

To her I say thank you. And there just isn’t a better way to say that.

My 30 seconds with Jane O’Connor. The photographer really could have waited for her to look up. But there we are!

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