Just Plain Fancy
ISBN: 0440409373

Just Plain Fancy Story
The Story (From Leah Polacco)

Just Plain Fancy is the story of a young Amish girl, Naomi who longs to have something fancy in her life. One day as she and her sister are searching the field for eggs, they stumble upon a peculiar-looking one. The girls slip the egg into the nest and when it hatches, they name the "chick" Fancy. As Fancy grows he certainly lives up to his name, and Naomi is frightened that the Amish community will shun the beautiful creature. During the frolic the next morning, Fancy unexpectedly escapes the henhouse, and runs toward the elders…
"At that moment, pleased with all the attention, Fancy ruffles his feathers and did for the guests what he had done for the girls in the henhouse the day before. Those who weren’t speechless were stunned!"
Just Plain Fancy is a charming story about learning to appreciate what God has provided, His "handiwork," and the "just plain fancy" miracles of life.

"Polacco's warm story and sensitive illustrations
offer a fresh, balanced perspective on Amish life."
-Publishers Weekly


Patricia Polacco in her art and story gives us all things spare and strange, a poetry of plainness, a passion for order, a profuse beauty."
-The Five Owls

"Just plain wonderful!"
-School Library Journal

The Artwork

fancy1 fancy2 fancy3 fancy4
fancy5 fancy6    

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Activity Ideas

The Faculty Lounge for October 22
Just Plain Fancy

< Go the the Question of the Week

Just Plain Fancy” is the story of a young Amish girl, Naomi who longs to have something fancy in her life. This story can best be used in collaboration with a study about the Amish way of life; however, there are other avenues to take when considering a lesson plan for “Just Plain Fancy.” The following only touches on the latter, and focusses primarily on the Amish culture as a lesson plan for students.

Amish Q&A in reference to "Just Plain Fancy" (Discussion Questions for your students):

At one point in the story, Naomi overhears her mother use the word “shunned” (to avoid somebody or something intentionally), and therefore is fearful that if Fancy is discovered, the Amish community will reject him.
1. Why does the Amish community shun or reject fancy things?
They choose this way of life to:
1. Follow their interpretation of teachings of the Bible. * “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him.” I John 2:15
In other words, ?worldly? things (possessions) such as telephones, automobiles, etc., the Amish consider to be ?fancy? or elaborate and excessive.
2. Retain the solidarity of their community. *
In other words, the Amish have lived by these principles for hundreds of years. If someone were to stray from the Amish way of life, they would be shunned in order to maintain harmony within the community.

2. When Fancy was discovered, why wasn’t he shunned? This question is answered in the story itself. The Amish elders do not reject Fancy because he was created by God to be a beautiful bird. Amish men and women do not reject things of natural beauty; they merely chose to live and dress simply and modestly.

Here are some other facts your students might find interesting! *

The Dress Code
Amish people dress in very simple style, avoiding all but the most basic ornamentation. Dark colors form the basis of the wardrobe; colored shirts with no pattern may be worn by both genders. Young girls often wear pastel dresses. Adult men may wear beards, but not mustaches, most likely due to the European military practice of wearing mustaches. Only married women may wear aprons, which must be white during church.

Amish people are forbidden to take photographs. They believe that photos lead to pride, which threatens the community by making individuals stand out.

School Matters
Formal education ends with the eighth grade. After this, Amish boys begin an apprenticeship to learn their trade, while Amish girls are taught the skills necessary to maintain the home.

At Work
The Amish people are skilled farmers; however, the notion that all Amish people are farmers is a misconception. In fact, the majority of Amish men work in local factories or in cottage industries. Adolescent girls and women often work on retail trade or in area restaurants.

It Starts at Home
The home is the center of Amish life, hosting everything from church services to funerals, courtships to weddings. As might be expected, decor is simple, with an emphasis on cleanliness and functionality. Many Amish homes have additions or smaller detached houses, called "Dawdy Houses,” to house several generations in one home. Amish homes are usually painted white.

Courtship and Marriage
When Amish boys turn 16, they are given a courting buggy, which they use to attend chaperoned gatherings of young people. Courtships usually begin at these events, and continue as young men escort eligible young ladies to church, singings, and other festivities. The actual wedding day begins at 9am with hymns, followed by a full sermon. The marriage vows take place after the sermon; there are no special wedding clothes for the bride and groom. The day concludes with merrymaking; up to 500 guests may be on hand to eat foods prepared the day before. Marriage is for life; divorce is virtually unheard of in Amish society.

Growing and Strong
The Amish population in Northern Indiana doubles about every 20 years. This rate of growth is primarily due to the Amish practice of having large families. It is not unusual to have over 10 children.

A Brief History
The Amish and Mennonite peoples can trace their religious origins to the Protestant Reformation. In 1525, the Anabaptist movement began, ultimately spreading through central and Western Europe. In Holland, a Catholic priest who left the faith to pursue his Anabaptist beliefs gave his name, Menno Simons, to the Mennonite movement. Near the end of the 17th century, a faction led by minister Jakob Ammon broke away, laying the groundwork for the Amish faith. The Amish people of Elkhart and LaGrange counties, one of the largest concentration of Amish people in the United States, are descendants of Swiss Amish who left Europe, as early as 1727, to escape persecution.

For other Question and Answers, as well as information about the Amish way of life, please visit: http://www.amish-heartland.com/aboutamishq.html.

*This information was contributed by http://www.amishcountry.org

Activity Ideas:

1. Break your students up into groups of three or four. Assign each group one of the aforementioned topics about the Amish (Dress Code, Marriage, etc.) to research. Designate an “Amish Celebration Day” in your class, on which, each group will orally present their discoveries.

2. Choose an Amish recipe such as Pumpkin Spice Cake or Little Honey Cakes to make for your class on “Amish Celebration Day” or any day!
Pumpkin Spice Cake: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/4207/pmpknspccak.html
Little Honey Cakes: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/4207/lilhoneys.html
Other Amish recipes: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Acres/4207/amish.html

Other possibilities for "Amish Celebration Day" activties:
Have your students draw, color, or paint pictures reflecting the aspect of the Amish lifestyle they researched;
Have your students dress in traditional Amish attire and/or draw and color pictures of the differences in trends between their clothing styles and those of Amish children their ages;
Invite an Amish man or woman (or someone familiar with the Amish culture) to talk to your class about the Amish way of life and/or for a question/answer period;
Divide your class up according to gender. Give the boys a brief lesson in a traditional Amish "trade" and the girls, a lesson in maintaining the home. As a class, have your students reflect on what they learned, and talk about what some of their individual goals and dreams are, and how they compare to Amish boys and girls their ages.
Designate bulletin board space for "Facts" and/or "Myths" about the Amish culture, research information, and/or pictures the students have colored.

3. Circle the room and have each student talk about a pet they own (or have owned) and why that pet is important to them (See the Question of the Week). Talk about why Fancy was important to Naomi in “Just Plain Fancy.” Have your students draw or color a picture of their pet.

4. Have your students write a letter to Naomi describing what they found interesting, or what they like best about her culture.

5. Have your students talk about some of the beliefs and traditions they celebrate in their homes, and how they compare to the Amish way of life. Suggest that your students bring in items that represent their cultural beliefs for a "Show and Tell" period.

6. Have your students create peacocks out of construction paper and feathers.

7. Test your students knowledge of the book with the "Just Plain Fancy" quiz.

A Note to Teachers: The information and links provided about the Amish culture are only meant to assist you in collecting data for your lesson plans. Please be sure to thoroughly research the Amish culture before presenting it to your students.

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