FANCY NANCY @ Your Library!

This program was a modified repeat of a program we had two years ago.  (Yes, you can offer the single-day programs again!) I know lots of libraries that have hosted Fancy Nancy events and I really suggest it. Fancy Nancy remains very popular at our library – often there are simply no Fancy Nancy books even checked in.  Two years ago this program was enormously popular – like almost more people than a single program could hold popular  – and when we had it again this year … surprise, we got the same GIGANTIC turnout.  In fact, besides our summer reading kick-off this was our largest event of the summer.

And, before I go any farther, I want to mention that this was not a “prissy” program.  (which makes sense because the Fancy Nancy books aren’t prissy books!  Don’t judge them by their covers!) Besides that we got a HUGE number of boys at this event.  Boys in top hats, boys in ties, even a boy in a fancy pink princess dress.  We had a set of brothers dressed as the Justice League (a full Batman costume, Superman and Green Lantern shirts) accompany their dressed-up sisters. It was such fun that it definitely inspired me to host a more general DRESS-UP day for next year.   You can never give kids enough chances to engage in imaginative play – the library is the natural place for it to happen!

Here’s how Fancy Nancy happened!

15 minutes of intro & story

Not a lot of backstory needed for this, but it was good to spend some time complimenting how FANCY and awesome everyone looked, that was lots of fun and it made the kids just puff up with delight and pride.  I did further prep the crowd by telling them we’d be learning and practicing MANY fancy words and I’d appreciate their help.  Since Fancy Nancy is an empire and the theme of “fancy” is just too overwhelming to focus on, so we choose a single Fancy Nancy title and program around that.


 This year I chose Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid BalletI think the Fancy Nancy books are actually quite lovely:  they’re not about the fancy things she owns and wears but about her learning and growing.  In this one, she learns to be genuinely happy for her best friend Bree when she gets a better part in the ballet than her and she learns to love her part too.  Lots of chance for dramatic play in this one and the audience loved the chance to practice along with her “fancy” words.  (These books are also great vocabulary builders!)

Here’s a great shot of reading to the crowd.


It was also a chance for the whole staff to get as fancy as possible.  This is another thing to love about these titles – there’s a huge range of what FANCY means and how it looks. (That’s why we had Batman in the audience, after all). Here’s the Youth Services crew all fancy’ed up.  You’ll note that I am very mismatching but I SPARKLE!


 (l to r – my unstoppable right-hand Melissa, me with my sparkly Hello Kitty shoes,  student worker superstar Dillon, reference cross-server Emily who loves Youth Services – bless her, and retired head of Youth Services Liz  -who still works as a substitute librarian and is a bad-ass who frequently saves my life.)

30 minutes of craft and activities

Here’s where picking a single Fancy Nancy theme comes in handy – now you have a specific focus.  Last time we did Bonjour Butterfly and did butterfly crafts.  This time we were only set up for two craft stations, both of which used almost only supplies we had on hand.

One station was simple sequin decorating.  We had a variety pack of jumbo foam shapes from Oriental Trading (it doesn’t seem like they stock them any more) that included stars, hearts, butterflies, and flowers.  You know kids love them some foam shapes!  We put out some of our sequins assortment (say no to glitter – it’s way too messy and imprecise.   Sequins are easier to handle, easier to clean up, and more impressive!) glue sticks, and markers and the kids were free to design and sequin their hearts out.

The other station involved one of my great discoveries of the summer: Etsy’s digital stamps. For a mere $3.65 I got these cool hand-drawn, perfectly formatted mermaids digital stamps.



There are thousands of digital stamps, hand-made clip-art, and original illustrations on Etsy for relatively low prices.  They’re instant downloads and you can use them for non-commercial purposes and the money goes directly to the artist. What’s not to love?  This was a great summer find.  The kids loved these mermaids.  Our printing department shrunk them (so that we could fit four on a page) and printed them on cardstock and we encouraged the kids to color them and glue them to popsicle sticks to make puppets.  That was another discovery of the summer: popsicle stick puppets are big hits! We did them in two separate programs and they were successful both times: the kids went right along with gluing them to the sticks and, almost instantly, they began using them in  imaginative play featuring dialogues and storylines.

15 minutes of snacks and wrap-up

This marked the debut of our food distribution via cups.  It was such a relief and a timesaver and it made it easier for any adults that wanted to help us hand everything out.  We’ll never go back to plates/buffet lines!  Cups only, cups forever! We did do special themed snacks for this event: graham cracker and icing sandwiches.  It was just fancy enough and this is a great snack. We supplemented this with a few more cookies and, as always, grapes.  And pink lemonade, of course!  This was an easy wrap-up.  We repeated some of the fancy words we learned in the book and I gave everyone a chance to stand up in place and do a little twirl or bow in their outfit.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

  • One of the HUGE changes we made in our summer programming this year was doing away with advance registration for events.  We found that it just hadn’t worked in the past – people forget and staff sure didn’t have time in the middle of SRP business to do reminder calls.  And … we’re not a HUGE library.  I have never turned the 26th kid away.  I never would.  So why waste the staff time? In all – this was an awesome change and a real relief.  It changed the tone of everything and saved us time and confusion.  We didn’t feel any major blow-back from it – yes we were over-prepared (supply-wise) for some events but it worked out fine.  EXCEPT FOR THIS EVENT. As I mentioned the attendance was HUGE.  There were at least 45 but probably closer to 55 children there(part of this, yes, was that a woman brought her daughter’s entire birthday party to the event.  I can’t even go into what a beyond belief insult this was – I didn’t find out until later or I would have pulled her aside to talk about it with her as she, an adult woman, was sitting at our craft station and making extra crafts as favors for party guests.  Beyond belief!) We ran out of mermaids!  We ran out of star and flower shapes!  And it was … it was pretty chaotic.  I think some people ended up leaving after the story because, even with everyone split into stations, they couldn’t face the sheer size of the crowd.  I’m not sure what the solution to this is.  And suggestions?  Would I have traded the 25 extra attendees for registration?  I … don’t know.  I don’t think so because BOY everyone was so happy! Is the solution to have the event twice?  But how can you know which ones will get 13 kids and which ones will get 50? I’m not sure what we can do or even if there is a clear solution – maybe the answer is just “be ready to roll with it!” But I am open to any ideas!
  • Thank goodness for a set of mom volunteers who are regular library patrons and, coincidentally, elementary school teachers.  When this event quickly spiraled into GIGANTIC size they stepped in and took over the mermaid puppet station. They saved the day! One thing I learned from this is to recruit and train these parent volunteers earlier in the summer so that I can have them confirmed and lined up for specific events.  Next summer, I am making having parent volunteers on hand a goal of my entire summer programming.
  • ALWAYS HAVE AT LEAST THREE STATIONS.  I alluded to this in the Ninjago post but this is where we learned the lesson.  We only had two stations, which could never have accommodated the number of attendees.  Melissa and I jumped right in and, on the fly, created an impromptu DANCE PARTY station.  (on the fly is sometimes how Melissa and I work best!) She took over in there while the parent volunteers went to the mermaids.  I was then free to address the food situation (cups!) with one student worker while Liz and the other student worker handled the foam shapes station. But we definitely learned after this we needed to have at least three stations for events we thought were going to have SUPER-SIZE attendance.  We had suspected it from the previous Fancy Nancy event but we hadn’t actually planned for it and THAT was where we got caught.

That’s how we survived Fancy Nancy!  Just like the first time, it was a special event and lots of fun for all the kids that participated.  It was a good chance to promote all the books, we got to show off the longer chapter book series to some older readers that had never seen them before,  learn new words, and engage in dramatic play (yet another thing I LOVE about the books – Nancy’s flair for the dramatic can be so fun to act out and encourages children to explore the meaning and actions of complicated words and concepts.)

It was hard to get an accurate count!  In all, however, I’d say approximately 50 children attended with 20 or so adults in attendance.  As well as Emily as desk staff we needed three staff members, (Liz, Melissa, and me) two student workers  (Jared and Dillon), and those two awesome mom volunteers to REALLY make it work.  We used a lot of supplies on hand (glue, foam shapes, sequins, popsicle sticks) so  the total cost was low, mostly in food for so many people. It was about $35 total, including the purchased illustrations.

Has your library hosted a Fancy Nancy event?  I know they’re popular!  What kind of things did you do and observe at your event?  What do YOU do when a program is larger than you expected?  Do you do registration for your summer events?  How do you handle it if not? Are there any questions or details about Fancy Nancy I didn’t answer or that you want more info about? Let’s talk about it all! (Comment here or talk with me on Twitter)


2 Responses to “FANCY NANCY @ Your Library!”

  1. Amanda

    I hear you on the registration/crazy crowd! We hosted a Fancy Nancy tea party a couple of years ago with “required” registration. We had 36 on the sign-up sheet and almost double that in attendance! We’ve pretty much done away with registrations now, and if I did the event again, I would offer two (or maybe even three) sessions back-to-back, making it clear in the publicity for families to choose one of the sessions. It sounds like you had a great event with lots of happy young readers!

  2. Monica

    I do registration during the summer, with a grain of salt: Kids’ programs I expect a dozen or so extra to show up at all events, while teens I generally get the exact number registered (whether it’s the same teens who registered or not), with usually a difference of just a few. Except for Tuesday when I was missing 12 teens, but that’s another gripe!