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.
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.