Stellabella Toys: A Bookstore and More.

Yesterday, afternoon, I was driving through Dedham, with quite the appetite. Determined to find some good food, I stumbled into the mega complex off of Route 1, in Dedham, MA. A megaplex of all your favorite high-end retail. Favorites, that you didn’t even know were your favorites yet.

*Blank stare, and silent moment to allow  the cricket chirps to emphasize my facetiousness*

Since, I really can’t resist going into a bookstore that I’ve never been in yet, I decided to take a quick look in the toy store, Stellabella Toys, to see if they sold any quality books in their toy store. I was surprised at how much time I spent looking at their front shelf, full of new picture books. Titles, like always, I have never heard of. I am still young in the world of picture books, so I really only learn about them, as I am exposed to them. I loved that the first thing you see when you walk into the store, is a beautiful case of books to your right. I browsed over a shelf or two. Once I had  already picked out three books for purchase, I thought it best, to check and see if the store passed my ethical standards. So I asked the friendly staff, Kyle, my first of two questions: Do you carry Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes? No; neither in the store nor in their database. Correct response! Check! Second question: Do you give teacher discounts? Yes. Check! 10% discount. Semi-check. An hour and a half later, I come out with 11 books. All new. Which is not a habit that I embrace easily. Pockets aren’t that deep, but I have no regrets of my purchases. I look forward to using every one of them in the classroom, minus the one on Forensic Science, that I bought for my 11-year-old cousin. She just completed a Saturday class on Forensic Science, at Emmanuel College, in Boston.

This is what the book looks like.
 And below you see what it currently looks like, wrapped in complimentary wrapping at the do-it-yourself wrapping station inside Stellabella Toys.

5 of the 11 purchased books are picture books.


1. Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Madston, Inc. 2011. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.

“If you stare at a painting and do not see yourself there, paint your own portrait.”

2. The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Renata Liwska.  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2011.

“Uncle Alexander’s old car loud. Walking-to-school song loud.”

3. Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson. Illustrated by R.G. Roth.  Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House. 2010

“What’s that sign say?” I ask Bryan. There’s white people lined up on both sides of the street.”Welcome to Central,” Bryan answers

4. One Tree by Leslie Bockol. Illustrated by Jillian Philips.  InnovativeKids® 2009

“One sapling grows tall. Over many seasons, it becomes a new tree. In springtime, it will grow many new buds.”

5. In the Garden by Leslie Bockol. Illustrated by Jillian Philips.  InnovativeKids® 2009

“Our garden is growing, and we are growing too!”

What I like about the InnovativeKids Green Start books, is their attention to the environment. The books are made from 98% post consumer product. The book also has activities, and websites, in the back, with tips on how to prevent deforestation. The language is excellent for my second language learners. Writing in repeated grammatical patterns. “The grapes grow on the vine. I pick them and eat them.”  “The tomato grows on the vine. I pick it, and eat it.”The pictures are appropriate, relevant, and beautiful; the essential components to any acceptable classroom picture book. Any book pertaining to gardening in general, and the growing of produce, is welcomed in my classroom.

1 of the 11 books, is a book of poems.

Not just any poems, though. Haikus. The Picturebook Pusher’s personal favorite genre of poetry. Although, I do believe some of the haiku’s cheat the rules of writing a haiku. With sentences beginning in the middle of a stanza, and finishing in the middle of the next. Hmm. But not all are written like that. Many are perfect. Like the haiku below.

“The wind and I play/Tug-o-war with my new kite/The wind is winning.”

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 2010

I’ll be honest, though. I will be concealing the title of the book. I will be covering the word, ‘boys’. From the cover. It is a book of Haiku for children, not just boys. In fact, I don’t see one delightful haiku in the book, that pays reference to ‘boys’. With the mild exception of the word, ‘man’, in a haiku about a snowman.

“Last week’s snowman looks/under the weather. Must be/a spring allergy.”

1 of the 11, an encyclopedia.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions. By Susan Meredith and Clare Hickman. Edited by Kirsteen Rogers

“Historians are uncertain of some exact dates in early religious history, so these dates begin with the abbreviation ‘c’. This stands for ‘circa‘, which is Latin for ‘about’.”


Religion comes up almost daily, in my classroom. The conversations are not initiated by me. I just try to help guide them, and keep them from telling each other what to do. “Don’t eat pork, or you’ll go to he$$.” “Don’t say ‘oh my g-d’.” “You can’t go trick-or-treating; g-d doesn’t like that.” Those are the kinds of statements I hear my students saying, and trying to process. They present a lot of anxiety over religion. I try to help them ease that anxiety. Of course, they don’t mean any harm to each other, but it must be awfully confusing for them to understand that they are each different, and practice being good people in different ways. This book uses language, and pictures to help students understand that religion stems from culture, and that they can be friends with each other, and learn what each other can teach the other.

1 of the 11 is an art book.

“There are lots of ways to apply paint. The dotty picture on the left was painted with brushes,  but you can get a similar effect with fingers too.”

This book is just great all around, and creating art is an everyday affair in my first-grade classroom. This book includes several different kid-friendly techniques for painting, drawing, collaging, etc. Its not a craft how-to book. It is a technique how-to book.

1 of the 11 is an activity/reference book

A Kid’s Guide to African American History by Nancy L. Sanders. Independent Publishers Groups. 2007

“Youths came to study law, math, and medicine at the University of Sankore in Timbuktu. Scholars came to Timbuktu to study its large collections of manuscripts, which included famous selections from Greek and Arabic literature. Scholars came to write their own books, too. The trading of books brought in more money than almost any other kind of business…People enjoyed dancing, fencing, gymnastics, and chess. Great respect was paid to learned people in this intellectual center of West Africa.”

I bought this book initially so I could compare my current practice ,and individual curriculum, to it. The organization of history by time and era, is very beneficial. This book will also benefit me when planning our unit on the ancient kingdoms of Africa.

The last book I bought is a reproducible workbook focusing on parts of speech, and other methods of classifying words by meaning.

It is designed for second graders, but it is all concepts that I am teaching my first-graders about.   What is key, is the organization of concepts and activities, on the worksheets.

                     Overall, a very successful trip.

 Stellabella Toys . Dedham Legacy Place Unit A-244. DedhamMA 781-329-6290. www.stellabellatoys.com

Thank you for your time.