RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And you may want to don a tiara for our next story. We're going to speak with Jane O'Connor, author of the popular "Fancy Nancy" children's series. The books follow the adventures of a little girl, Nancy.
In the first book, she proclaims, 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.
"Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly" is the new book in the series. Author Jane O'Connor explains just what being fancy means to Nancy.
Ms. JANE O'CONNOR (Author, "Fancy Nancy"): In her world, it means putting frilly toothpicks into sandwiches. It means adding lace trim to your soccer socks. She turns her own plain bed into a canopy bed by rigging up a sheet with a broom and a mop. So it's all very homemade, do-it-yourself fancy.
MONTAGNE: What got you to start writing these books? Had you noticed that there were little girls like this, sort of out of sync with the rest of their little worlds?
Ms. O'CONNOR: Not consciously, no. it came really from my own childhood, where every Sunday my grandmother and my great aunts would come to visit. And the minute I heard the doorbell ring, I'd run in my room, throw on my tutu, wrap this red cape I had, and I'd come galumphing out in my mother's high heels, and I felt that I was ready to greet my guests, you know, that I was appropriately elegant for them.
MONTAGNE: And in the original book, though, she seems utterly unaware of how…
Ms. O'CONNOR: Ridiculous she is?
MONTAGNE: …exaggerated she is. Right.
(Soundbite of laughter)
I mean, she - and wants the rest of the world to be like that. So the premise of the first book is she sets up a class to teach, you know, how to be a Fancy Nancy. Yes.
Ms. O'CONNOR: And I like the fact that her parents really appreciate this little peacock in their midst. And they're fun parents. They don't mind getting dressed up in silly, outrageous outfits. The mom is wearing Christmas ornaments as earrings. The dad has on a top hat from Nancy's magic set. Her little sister looks outrageous. And they all go to the local pizza parlor and eat with their pinkies up and call each other darling.
And I liked it that the parents go along with her, but they also - they rein her in when she sort of crosses the line.
MONTAGNE: Well, that is something that brings up a point. How do you keep a character like Nancy, who is oblivious in many ways, is all about herself in a lot of ways, how do you keep her from being obnoxious?
Ms. O'CONNOR: That is first and foremost in my mind when I write a story, to kind of just have a gut sense of where that boundary is. And in the third book, she is not allowed to go to her friend's birthday because her grandparents are having an out-of-town anniversary party - a 50th anniversary party.
And she throws a little hissy fit. And the pages where she's throwing the hissy fit are just priceless. After she learns that she can't go to her friend's birthday, she says, for the next two days I scowl and sulk and storm around the house. Mad is way too plain for how I feel. I am furious.
In one picture, Robin Glasser, who is the wonderful illustrator, actually has her in widows weeds walking around. And her obnoxiousness, though, has a humor in it.
MONTAGNE: Do you hear from your readers or their parents about the books?
Ms. O'CONNOR: I do, and the letters from parents are really nice. Some have even said that they've gone out for dinner looking like the family in the book, just to have a night of being fancy together.
But I recently got a letter from a little girl named Brianna. In the letter she said to me, if you have children, I bet you're a really fun mom. And I love that. And I wrote back to her and I said, well, I do have kids, but I only had boys.
So another dividend of these books is going to bookstores, seeing all these little girls troop in with their lopsided tiaras and their mother's long gloves where their fingers just don't come even halfway through the gloves. And I finally get to play dress up.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much. And what's a fancy way for saying thank you?
Ms. O'CONNOR: Merci beaucoup.
MONTAGNE: Jane O'Connor is the author of the "Fancy Nancy" books for children. Throw on a little glitter and head to npr.org/books to read and see more "Fancy Nancy."
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