Unlocking the Past: Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key by Jane O'Connor
"Next week, I would like each of you to bring in something from present time. Nothing big. Something that tells about what life is like today. We are going to put everything in a box."
"You mean, like a time capsule?" Lionel asked. "Ooh--and can it have a sign that says "Do not open until 2064?" Nancy added.
"Maybe in fifty years my child will go to this school and open it!" Clara said.
Grace rolled her eyes. "Clara! Do the math. In fifty years you'll be nearly sixty. Your children will be grown ups, too."
"And for Monday," Mr. Dudeny went on, "I'd like you to interview somebody who was your age a long time ago. Find out what it was like being a kid back then."
Nancy and her best friend Bree decide to interview their glamorous older friend, Mrs. DeVine, who brings over an album with photos of herself and her best friend taken in an photo booth at the state fair. Mrs. Devine tells them that she and her friend vowed to be best friends always, just like Nancy and Bree. But then, she added a little sadly, her friend moved away and they lost track of each other over the years.
Nancy can't imagine being 50 years older and not best friends with Bree!
Nancy mulled over Mr. D's words. Once the past hadn't been the past. It had been just like this very moment. The present. And in the future, this very moment would turn into the past.
And the next day, as the family hits the Saturday tag sales to find her a desk for her own room, Nancy finds herself in her own history mystery. At the first stop, she falls in love with a small rolltop desk, with cubbyholes and small drawers above the writing surface. And when they get the desk home, Nancy discovers that one of the two drawers is shorter than the one above, and in it there is a key which appears to open a keyhole in the hidden drawer behind it.
And in that secret drawer is.... another key, a fancy silver key on a chain.
A key which unlocks nothing else on the desk is a mystery, and would-be detectives Nancy and Bree gleefully have themselves a new case! As the two put their heads together to discuss strategy, pushy Grace bikes by and has to hear all about it. As usual, Grace cuts to the chase.
"So, duh! Just go back and ask whoever used to own that desk what the key is for."
Grace was right! Why hadn't they thought of that themselves? Maybe their sleuthing skills were getting rusty.
Grace invites herself along to "interrogate" the desk's former owner, and the three bike over. The former owner says the key was there when she bought it from the LaSalle's next door, who moved to Washington, D.C., years before. Disappointed, Nancy and Bree turn to leave, but Grace butts in.
"Listen, if you do find an email address or something," she said, "you could write and see if your old neighbors would let us email them."
Soon Nancy gets an email for the LaSalle's daughter Olivia, who says the key was in the desk when she got it from her Aunt Elizabeth, who also has now moved back in town.
This investigation is getting intense. Olivia takes the girls' hurried call and digs out her Aunt Elizabeth's email address in a retirement complex nearby. Elizabeth is excited about the silver key and agrees to drop by the girls' detective headquarters. And she recognizes the secret key, her silver key on a chain, like the one her best friend also wore, the one she'd locked in the drawer in Nancy's desk long ago.
But there's something else familiar to Nancy about that silver key. Noticing that Mrs. DeVine had left her photo album behind after her visit, Nancy turns to the photos of the two best friends at the fair. She pulls out her rhinestone-rimmed magnifying glass for a closer look. And in the third photo pasted on the page, Nancy then sees that both girls are holding up ... silver keys on chains around their necks!
Is her new desk's drawer itself a time capsule? Has she discovered Mrs. DeVine's best friend from the past? Is Nancy Clancy's history mystery solved?
Jane O'Connor does it again in her latest Nancy Clancy chapter book, Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Secret of the Silver Key (Harper, 21014), in which she creates an intriguing, multi-faceted mystery for her two girl sleuths, with their sometime frenemy, Grace, who, they admit, is no slouch as a sleuth. Worked seamlessly into their investigations is the working out friction with wannabe friend Grace, not to mention Nancy's deepening thoughts on the nature of time and the relationship of the past with the present and future and her usual new and fancy words. As always, artist Robin Priess Glasser's many humorous black-and-white drawings are an asset in extending the easy-reading text and revealing personalities of the characters. A first-choice for young readers just getting into the mystery novel genre, with plenty of references to Nancy Clancy's favorite girl sleuth, Nancy Drew, to move them along to middle-reader status.
There are many authors who can write good beginning mysteries, but few who can blend the primary grade social scene and curriculum, vocabulary lessons, and a growing maturity into the characters, one who can write a genuinely moving denouement as O'Connor does in this one.
Other not-to-be-missed books in this best-selling series are Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (Fancy Nancy), Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer, and Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy Sees the Future.