Category Archives: great girls

Fancy Nancy


By Jane O’Connor, Pictures by Robin Preiss Glasser

Harper Collins, 2006

I love being fancy. My favorite color is fuchsia. That’s a fancy way of saying purple. I like to write my name with a pen that has a plume. That’s a fancy way of saying feather. And I can’t wait to learn French because everything in French sounds fancy.  Nobody in my family is fancy at all. They never even ask for sprinkles.

I resisted Fancy Nancy for a loooong time. Each time I saw it at our local book store or the library, I’m fairly certain I sniffed audibly and/or rolled my eyes. It just seemed so, well, fancy. But when someone gave my daughter a copy for her second birthday, I finally got past the tiara and chorus-girl coyness of the cover illustration and actually read it. And I freely admit I was wrong: Fancy Nancy is fairly marvelous — which is a fancy way of saying “pretty darn good.” What you’re getting isn’t a compelling narrative, but a compelling character. Nancy has such a unique way of seeing the world, you just can’t help but be charmed. Oh, and just for fun, take a look at Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest, the 2001 book Glasser illustrated with Judith Viorst. Any red-curly-haired girl with an exuberant attitude look familiar?

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Ella Takes the Cake


By Carmela and Steven D’Amico

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005

It was already summer vacation and the bakery was busier than ever. Ella tried her best to help. But sometimes, she didn’t feel very helpful. She’d already swept the floor three times. There wasn’t a crumb on it. When the oven timer went off — DING! — Ella thought she’d help by taking out the macaroons. “No, no, no,” her mother sang. “You might burn yourself.”

Maybe it’s because I read this to my daughter while my son was attending his first day of nature camp and I was fraught with anxiety, but I found this book to be…a nail-biter. Little Ella, who surely owes a huge debt to Babar, insists on delivering an enormous three-tiered birthday cake. She is, of course, on her bike, while Danger Cake is pulled behind her in a clunky wooden wagon. Ella is blissfully unphased by the obstacles she encounters — including her belligerent “friend,” Belinda and an alarmingly steep hill.  I’m sure I read this story faster, louder, and with more urgency than my daughter would have liked. But I breathed a sigh of relief when Belinda delivered the cake to the Captain intact (and my son had a blast.)

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The Bora-Bora Dress


By Carole Lexa Schaefer, Illustrated by Catherine Stock

Candlewick Press, 2005

Lindsey never ever ever wore a dress. She wore her baggy shorts to run on the beach. She wore her old jeans to climb up to her tree house. She wore her patch overalls to jump in heaps of leaves. “What’s a dress good for, anyway?” said Lindsey.

The answer: Going to her Aunt Fiona’s extremely fancy dress-up party. Lindsey reluctantly lets her mother take her to Miss Beeline’s Girls’ Shop to look — just look –– at dresses. As any tomboy in her right mind would expect, they’re hideous, with fluffy ruffles, lots-of-dots and plaids-and-pleats. (I do enjoy a good hyphenated phrase.) But then Lindsey spies a surprising frock that looks as if it was made just for her. My two-year-old daughter, who points to any dress and says, “I will never, ever wear that,” finds this book quite curious. I think she appreciates long-legged, adventurous, sloppy-in-a-cool-way Lindsey. (There are those hyphens again.) And the illustrations of Aunt Fiona’s party — especially her hedge maze and Tower O’ Cupcakes — are magical. Blissfully, Lindsey doesn’t make a Kafka-esque transformation into Prim and Proper Princess.  She simply comes to the logical conclusion that a good dress serves a purpose as well as jeans.

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Ladybug Girl


By David Soman and Jacky Davis

Dial Books, 2008

After breakfast, Mama says, “Papa and I have work to do around the house. You’ll have to figure out your own fun time, okay?” “How am I ever going to do that?” asks Lulu. “You can do anything, Lulu. You’re Ladybug Girl!”

When Lulu’s parents are busy, Lulu is doubtful she can find anything to do on her own. To make matters worse, her older brother goes off to play baseball with his friends, chiding, “You’re too little.” Fortunately, Lulu finds that as Ladybug Girl, there are plenty of fun things she can do on her own. (Not to mention brave tasks to accomplish — some puddles are shark-infested, you know.) With her faithful basset hound, Bingo, at her side, Lulu turns a potentially boring morning into a fabulous adventure. David Soman’s illustrations are utterly charming; it takes my kids and me a full five minutes to get past the front cover of the book, which shows Lulu dressed in a variety of fabulous costumes, from a space explorer in a bubble-shaped helmet to a hilariously haughty movie star — sort of Ginger of “Gilligan’s Island” meets Jackie O. But the red tutu and rockin’ ladybug boots are by far, my favorite. I’d totally wear them if they came in my size.

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