Monday, May 07, 2012

Have Trenchcoat. Will Sleuth: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor

The only thing Nancy was missing was a mystery.

"If only more criminals lived around here," she said to her father.

"Nobody ever gets kidnapped. I bet there's never been a jewel heist." Nancy added, in case her father didn't know, "That means a jewel robbery."

Nancy sighed. "I wish we lived someplace like River Heights." That was where Nancy Drew lived. "In River Heights, criminals are lurking around every corner."

Fancy Nancy Clancy has got the gear-- floppy hat, rhinestone-encrusted magnifying glass, a notebook, a pink trench coat, and five Nancy Drew books under her belt. Best friend Bree has a trench coat, too--a lavender one. Now all they need is a CASE.

And then, after Parent Day at school, the fashionista sleuths get their first real mystery. The sapphire blue marble, a big shooter given to her teacher Mr. Dudeny by his grandfather, is discovered missing from the class's display of their prized possessions. Every one of their classmates--and every one of the guests for their presentation--is a SUSPECT! Nancy and Bree swing into action, interrogating all the kids, looking for motives, and searching for evidence.

Everyone denies any knowledge of the missing marble. There seem to be no tangible clues--until Bree, the class shutterbug, has the film of the event in her reusable camera developed. Studying the prints with their magnifying glasses, Nancy spots a series of real clues. Among the snapshots of classmates showing off their favorite items, the big blue marble is plainly in evidence in its place of honor on the exhibit table behind the proud parents and students, the clock face readable behind them, until just before the program ended at lunch time, and it is clearly missing from its mounting in the final photo taken after lunch. The time of the crime is established! And one photo of a pair of parents smiling broadly in front of the table reveals one of the guests clearly reaching for that marble in the background.

It looks like the case is solved. But there is one more interrogation that Nancy must make to be sure. And why is Nancy Clancy, super sleuth, not happy with the brilliant solution to her first case?

Jane O'Connor's best-selling picture book heroine, Fancy Nancy Clancy, debuts in her first full-length mystery and her first beginning chapter book, Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (Harper, 2012) already hitting the charts as a best-seller in book world. How does a primary grader in a pink trench coat shoot to the top as soon as her book hits the sales shelves?

Initially I myself was a Fancy Nancy resister when the first book came up as a nominee before the Volunteer State Book Awards in 2005. As a primary schooler in that distant era when bows and ruffles for girls were the mode, I was a determined tomboy, a frou-frou resister, and when the first book came out, I figured the last thing the current crop of little princesses needed was yet another fashionista role model. But Nancy Clancy's plucky persistence in being herself in a plain Jane family and O'Connor's insightful family-centered plots soon won me over.

Thinking back, I now wish I had had a fictional friend like Nancy to help with the rites of passage of the primary years--dealing with mean girls, bad-hair picture days, and the undeniable horror of barfing in front of the whole class. A girl could do worse than have Nancy Clancy as a mentor, and thanks to the continued artistry of author O'Connor and illustrator Robin Glasser, whose drawings lose none of their telling line and piquant extension of the text in black and white, detective Nancy shows no sign of losing her touch for her readers. Vive!, Nancy! And Merci!

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