Fancy Nancy is the star of several very popular picture books, and has made the jump to easy readers as well. Like many little girls today, Nancy is obsessed with fancy clothing and being extra-fancy in every part of her life. In this particular installment, Fancy Nancy is excited about visiting a planetarium with her classmates, but the weather keeps them from making the trip. What will Fancy Nancy and her family do?
I am less than impressed with these Early Readers featuring Fancy Nancy. Vocabulary terms that were precocious and precious in the picture books have a very different impact when they are placed in an early reader. I understand that to remove all of Nancy’s quirky word choices would be to change a vital part of her character, but it is also difficult and frustrating for a beginning reader to suddenly be presented with words like “fascinating” or “alfresco”, or even “museum”. The book is an I Can Read Level 1. These sorts of words would be more appropriate for a more advanced level, such as 3 or 4. They could have been incorporated here more efficiently if there was a pronunciation guide to help struggling readers along.
Secondly, the illustrator is different, though the cover proclaims that the pictures are “based on the art of Robin Preiss Glasser.” I noticed the difference immediately. Glaser’s illustrations manage to preserve the essential cuteness and precociousness of the Nancy and her family. She is, in the end, just a little girl. These new illustration seem just a bit off for some reason. Perhaps it is because it is an illustrator consciously trying to imitate another’s work? The shading seems very strange – Nancy often looks like she is wearing some sort of blush. And I mistook her friend Robert for a short-haired girl several times. While I appreciate little touches, like the visible tape on the classroom decorations, the odd colors and strange shading put me off.
This is getting to be very nitpicky, but I also disliked the plot. There was none of the charm of the original book. Many of the details seem far-fetched – when was the last time you heard of a classroom taking a “field trip” that was held at eight o’clock at night, and which parents needed to escort their children to? Perhaps Nancy and her family live in a different part of the country than I do, but I have never seen the roads closed because of rain, or at least not in such a way that there was no possible detour. If the area is large enough to be able to maintain a planetarium, then it is probably also large enough to have multiple routes to and from a museum. Plus, if it was raining so hard that the roads were flooded, I sincerely doubt that the skies would be clear and filled with stars by the time that Nancy and her family made it back to their home.
In conclusion, fans of the series might want to try reading this book, but they might get more enjoyment simple from having a parent re-read the original.