This year, beloved children’s author Jane O’Connor, creator of the popular Fancy Nancy literary series, bid Nancy--her pink, boa-loving little girl character with a beautiful imagination--“adieu”. After writing more than 50 picture and chapter books about Nancy (there is also a Fancy Nancy animated TV show on Disney Jr.) and Nancy’s love of anything and everything pink, classy, and French, O’Connor retired Nancy. O’Connor, a native New Yorker, will no longer be penning any more Fancy Nancy books, but she’ll still keep one (pink!) foot in the literary world. (In fact, during our exclusive chat for FamilyEducation.com, at PS 152 Q in Woodside, Queens, New York, she showed off her magenta Fancy Nancy socks!)
O’Connor recently teamed up with the Brooklyn, NY-based organization Connection To Creativity, which inspires kids to read through artistic means. During her November 2018 visit to PS 152 Q, arranged by Connection to Creativity creative director Stephaney Davis, actor Catherine Gasta performed mime to O’Connor’s delightful reading of Fancy Nancy’s Our Thanksgiving Banquet, as a way of showing the third-grade students one can tell a story without speaking.
Here’s why O’Connor, a former French teacher, is promoting the power of books and literacy:
It enhances vocabulary.
“When writing the first story about Nancy, I thought, sure, she likes to dress up and have fancy manners, but part of being fancy, was using fancy words. They’re just so much more interesting! If something is nice, that’s fine, but what if it’s splendiferous? That’s much better than just saying something is nice. Every time I came across a word I thought Fancy Nancy would like to use, I’d write it down. On my computer I have an alphabetical list about 15 pages long of all different words that I think Fancy Nancy might use. I didn’t use all of them (in the books), but many. I just think language is really fun.” Nancy loves occasionally using a French word, such as merci, so when reading about Fancy Nancy’s adventures, kids also (subconsciously) learn another language.
It promotes personal and literary growth.
Authors themselves ‘branch out,’ just like kids and their varying personal interests. “I’m an editor of children’s books as well for Penguin Random House. I started a biography series about 16 years ago called Who Was?. I’m the editor and always loved reading biographies as a child. That’s what prompted me to start this series, it’s easy to read but not text-heavy and moves past picture books.” When Fancy Nancy fans want to move on, or perhaps feel like, as much as they cherish Nancy, it’s time to read a biography on someone they admire; they can continue to support O’Connor by reading one of the numerous Who Was? biographies she edited. (The Who Was? Show is also an all-new live action series on Netflix.) According to O’Connor there are more than 200 Who Was? Titles, with more to come.
It’s a bonding experience.
“Read with your child; even after your child has learned to read or while they’re learning to read. Read aloud, and read together. It’s a shared experience and kids see that you think reading is something fun, it’s not just an activity or an assignment, it’s something you can do for pleasure.” Kids will fondly recall the stories they loved as a child, but who they read those books with as well. O’Connor--mom to two adult sons and grandmother to a baby girl--read aloud to her sons when they were kids for many years; as a child she was a big fan of Madeline and Ramona Quimby. “I liked spunky girls! My whole career has been about getting kids to love reading.”
To see photos of the event and exclusive interview, check it out on Facebook: