Review By HOMA WOODRUM
Mysteries make for perfect chapter books. In fact, I remember being captivated by the likes of Encyclopedia Brown when I was a kid — I could never leave the characters in suspense by putting the book down. Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth had my three-and-a-half year old daughter exclaiming, “One more chapter, we have to solve the mystery!” From the same team that brought us many of the other Fancy Nancy books, this book finds Nancy along with her friends and family a little older with new challenges to face. Sadly, the illustrations are not in color but they are still beautiful with great detail.
I have grown to love the Fancy Nancy series along with my daughter. The stories have positive messages and Nancy is a conscientious, although sometimes overenthusiastic, little girl. I was worried about how Nancy’s obsession with all things fancy would hold up in a longer book — it is a character trait that allows for great vocabulary but could have easily been overused. Luckily, though there are new words, they match an older audience and the explanations are not condescending. I found the chapters to be just the right length to hold my daughter’s interest and there are two mysteries that realistically play out. Nancy’s latest obsession is Nancy Drew, so she and her friend Bree have been playing detective and in searching for mysteries they overhear that a friend may be withholding a secret from Nancy. When the friend confesses and mentions that she had felt sick concealing what had happened, Nancy realizes that someone close to her has also been acting strangely in the wake of the theft of her teacher’s special blue marble. (The teacher is a new character: Mr. Dudeny.)
Much like a book I recently reviewed, The Great Cake Mystery, there are false accusations among the classmates about who could be the thief. Even Nancy is implicated at one point. This allowed for me to discuss what it means to accuse someone without evidence and the risk we run if we do that. I don’t think you have to be a lawyer to find it an important lesson for a child. Nancy really wants her little sister punished severely for taking the teacher’s marble, but her parents caution her that she, too, made a similar error of judgment when she was a child, which is another opportunity for discussion. I didn’t really see any red flags that would worry veg families.
The book is geared to readers ages 7 to 10, but made a great read-aloud and, with a little help, younger children can still enjoy it.