Bella’s tale drew me in from the first line, “I’ve never seen so many bikes before.” While looking at the illustrations, I was thrown back to my time in Hanoi, trying to cross the street myself. I enjoyed listening as the family discussed their adventures together, from bargaining for shoes and exploring different Hanoi streets, to wandering a park with the option of phở for lunch or having custom-made clothes tailored in Hoi An. The reader clearly understands that these cultural experiences do not occur often in the USA.
My first grade students were entranced when I shared the book’s highlights with them. We looked at maps together, first a world map to find our location and to see how far Vietnam is from Los Angeles, and then we examined a map of South East Asia to compare Vietnam’s location to the first Bella tale in Singapore. The extended anecdotal information near the end of the book – including the recipe for pho - provided more interesting details about Vietnam.
I spoke with Stacey Zolt Hara and learned about her family’s journey from Chicago to Singapore and how next Bella will travel to South Africa to learn about animal preservation! My students cannot wait to hear more from Bella and now they have placed Vietnam on the top of their travel wish lists! They have really enjoyed their personal interaction with the author. Stacey was kind enough to write back to each of my student’s questions!
The next edition of the book would be well-served by a map, which would be a useful addition to this story. But recently, “Bella’s Chinese New Year,” the App with the first book in the series was released! If you aren’t sure how to pronounce a word in the book, you can touch the screen and hear how to pronounce it! Enjoy Bella in her two books and in her new online game! I cannot wait for Stacey to be back Stateside later this year so we can Skype with her in class. I know she has spoken with hundreds of students at assemblies in Singapore; her inspired storytelling will be welcome here in America.
Stacey has certainly inspired my students and even her own children. Her daughter told her after looking at the moon near Cape Town, “I just can’t wait until we can go visit the moon. That will be a fantastic trip.” The belief that nowhere is out of reach, and that a person can go everywhere and make connections around the globe is the 21st century, is a dream that I would like to inspire in my students. I am honored to use Stacey Zolt Hara’s books in my classroom. Her character Bella really engages in the new culture, meets its people, tastes the food, and shares her stories. As Stacey says, “Bella’s trips are a window to travel experience for others and they can now dream about it.” I hope you and your children enjoy the stories and help to create a plan that will fill your passport with stamps and your life with experiences.