Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fancy Nancy: The dazzling book report by Jane O'Connor and A Birthday for Bear by Bonny Becker

The easy readers I'm reviewing today fall into another category; picture book to easy reader. Both follow up on popular and well-loved picture books.

Fancy Nancy is a hugely popular series, encompassing picture books, easy readers, and a variety of "novelty" books (I recommend the Fancy Nancy Tea Parties for libraries - cover the detachable cards with clear contact and it circs like crazy with no damages!)

Although in general I am somewhat blah about fancy/princesss/pink books, I do really like Fancy Nancy. I love her elaborate words and the way she enjoys ordinary things. I also love how ordinary her family is; fancy does not equal wealthy! Also, I appreciate the way Fancy Nancy's parents let her express herself in her own inimitable style. I hadn't thought about this until someone (I don't remember who) at my library commented on how weird/cool/fun it was that her parents let her wear what she wanted. Blink. It's times like these I appreciate my own childhood. Thanks Mom.

So, how does Fancy Nancy translate from picture book to easy reader? Fantastically! Most of the Fancy Nancy easy readers deal with the world outside home, specifically school. Sometimes being fancy is wonderful; but sometimes it gets in the way, as in this story. Fancy Nancy is delighted about doing a book report; she is an excellent reader and she is going to have the most beautiful binder in the whole class. Unfortunately, she gets carried away with decoration and doesn't get to the actual report part. What will she do when she has to present her report? Will her teacher, Mrs. Glass, understand?

The interior illustrations are drawn by Ted Enik, but he has carefully imitated Robin Preiss Glasser's curly and exuberant style. And come on, who doesn't want that marvelous book chair on the cover?

Verdict: Kids who loved Fancy Nancy and are read to read on their own will enjoy this series, as will emerging readers who like realistic stories about kids and school.

ISBN: 978-0061703690; Published March 2009 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library
Our second picture book to easy reader is a much newer effort. Bonny Becker's Visitor to Bear was a big hit with its delightful illustrations, charming characters, and verging-on-the-silly-but-not-quite repetition. In the original story, Mouse convinces Bear that he really does want a visitor; and not just a visitor, a friend. In this easy reader, Bear does NOT want a birthday and Mouse uses similar tactics to show him that birthdays really can be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this continuation. It just didn't come up to the high standards I was expecting after Visitor. My main gripe is the plot. A grumpy bear who doesn't want visitors is one thing. A grumpy bear who would rather clean his house than have a birthday with his new friend is another. Why doesn't he want a birthday? The style tries to follow that of the picture book, with somewhat elaborate language on the part of mouse. But there's not enough space for the full amount of repetition so it falls a little flat. Because of the more advanced vocabulary, you're going to have to hand this out to older readers; who are going to be puzzled by the random plot.

Verdict: Now, just because I was disappointed doesn't mean it's a bad book! Comparatively speaking, this is a very good easy reader. It has charm and humor, a familiar character that many kids will recognize and a silly plot that they'll laugh over. It just didn't work as well for me as Visitor for Bear. I would have liked to see a continuation of Bear and Mouse's friendship, not a re-write of their first encounter.

ISBN: 978-0763637460; Published September 2009 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library


Terry Doherty said...

This is so ironic. I came FROM Fancy Nancy Easy Readers to FN picture books. Yet I love them both. A Birthday for Bear is my first "bear" book. It'll be curious to see what happens when I "go backwards."

Mary Ann Scheuer said...

I had similar concerns about the vocabulary in Birthday for Bear. It worked well as a read aloud with my kindergartner (as a bedtime story). I think the format works to introduce older preschoolers and kindergartners to listening to chapter books, but it would discourage new readers (1st and 2nd grade).