Meet Miss Fancy

by Irene Latham (Author) John Holyfield (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A charming and significant story set prior to the Civil Rights Movement about a boy who finds a way to challenge segregation laws.

Frank has always been obsessed with elephants. He loves their hosepipe trunks, tree stump feet, and swish-swish tails. So when Miss Fancy, the elephant, retires from the circus and moves two blocks from his house to Avondale Park, he's over the moon! Frank really wants to pet her.

But Avondale Park is just for white people, so Frank is not allowed to see Miss Fancy. Frank is heartbroken but he doesn't give up: instead he makes a plan!

Frank writes to the City Council so his church can host a picnic in the park, and he can finally meet Miss Fancy. All of his neighbors sign the letter, but when some protest, the picnic is cancelled and Frank is heartbroken all over again. Then Miss Fancy escapes the zoo, and it's up to Frank to find her before she gets hurt.

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Kirkus Reviews

Quality storytelling and beautiful art allow a likable protagonist to shine.


Starred Review
Meet Miss Fancy should be savored for its joyous, vibrant renderings of Avondale's African American community and families, so full of movement and light that they often resemble stills from an animated film. This is a gem of a story.

Hornbook Guide to Children

Create[s] a window into the Jim Crow South while also telling a compelling tale.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 2--A heartwarming story set in the early 1900's about a young boy who desperately want to befriend an elephant. Latham's story is loosely based on a true circus elephant that retired to live in a park in Birmingham, Alabama. Frank, a black boy who draws elephants, talks about elephants, and dreams of meeting an elephant, might just get his wish. Frank and his classmates learn that a circus elephant needs a new home and collect pennies to help the city of Birmingham buy Miss Fancy. Frank is overcome with excitement as he awaits the day Miss Fancy would arrive. Crowds of people come out to greet the elephant as she is led from the train station to her enclosure in the local park. Frank gets his first glance of Miss Fancy but discovers he is unable to get a closer view because the park is for whites only. Frank is heartbroken, but he discovers a tree that overlooks the elephant enclosure and visits every day. Frank continues to ask if he can go into the park, his mother and minster think they have an idea. They ask the city for a permit to have a church picnic in the park. Unfortunately, the picnic is called off due to the prospect of trouble. Meanwhile, Miss Fancy has been having a bit of fun herself by escaping from her habitat. And one morning Miss Fancy arrives on Frank's doorstep. Overcome with joy, Frank leads her back to the park and with the love and care he shows he is finally allowed to visit Miss Fancy properly. VERDICT The story of Miss Fancy is a joy to read. For younger readers, it not only explores the adventures of Frank and Miss Fancy, but also touches on the race issues in the South during the 1900's. This would be a fine addition to any children's library.--Erin Olsen, The Brearley School, NY

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"[An] introduction to segregation...that may snatch at kids' hearts and lead to more exploration."—BCCB

Irene Latham
Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming books, including two novels for children: Leaving Gee's Bend and Don't Feed the Boy. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, her poetry books for children include Dear Wandering Wildebeest, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica, Fresh Delicious and Can I Touch Your Hair? (co-written with Charles Waters). Irene lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her family where she does her best to live her poem every single day by laughing, playing the cello, and walking in the woods.

A renowned fine artist, John Holyfield lives in Fairfax Station, Virgina.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2019
BISAC categories
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV002080 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Elephants
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
Picture books
Birmingham (Ala.)
Booklist Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth
ILA-CBC Teachers' Choices Pick
Alabama Camellia
Nominee 2019 - 2020
Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
People Pick
Volunteer State Book Award
Nominee 2020 - 2021

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