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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

Bella Wishes

by Tessa May

 

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Summary

This book for young readers tells the story of a hippopotamus named Bella who loves to belly dance. Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Bella Wishes

Author

Tessa May

ISBN

0-9759325-0-0

Publisher

CarLou Interactive Media

Category

Fiction: For Children

Rating

StarStarStar

Number of Pages

32

Published In

2004

Reading Level

Ages 4-8

 

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Description

This picture book for girls tells of a belly dancing pink hippopotamus named Bella Wishes who wears a pink belly dancing costume. Bella swings her hips to and fro, to the left, to the right. The author's intent is to show girls that anyone, even a pink hippopotamous, can have fun exercising.

Each page contains a large full-color drawing by illustrator Dave Rodriguez and short, simple sentences of under 10 words each underneath.

The book comes with a CD that has two tracks. The first track, which is about 3 minutes long, is a song whose lyrics are drawn from the text of the book (but it's not a direct reading of the book from beginning to end). There's no Middle Eastern flavor to the melody or rhythm. I would describe the musical style as being similar to what you might hear on the children's television show Barney. The second track of the CD, which is just over 2 minutes long, consists of the author reading the text of the book from beginning to end, which a child who is learning to read could easily follow along with.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • There is a young girl in your life who is just learning to read.
  • You'd like a book that comes with a CD with music in the style you might hear on a children's television show such as Barney.
  • There's a young girl in your life who likes belly dancing.
  • You want to encourage a young girl in your life to try doing active movement for fun.
  • You enjoy collecting books that are somehow related to belly dancing.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You have no interest in children's books.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • I appreciate the author's intent of sending a message to children that exercise can be fun, and that it's okay to exercise even if you're as big as a cute hippopotamous.
  • The drawings by Dave Rodriguez which illustrate this book are very appealing.
  • Some of the descriptions of belly dancing are quite appropriate: she swings her hips to and fro, she wiggles low, she moves her hips to the left, she swings her hips to the right.
  • The short, simple sentences and entertaining drawings should make this book appealing for its target market of young readers. Including the CD that reads the book to the child expands the pleasure a girl can get from the overall package.
  • A portion of the proceeds of the book go to support a children's scholarship fund offered by the author's non-profit endeavor, World Trust Foundation.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • I wish the illustrations had not shown Bella wearing a face veil. This perpetuates too many Orientalist stereotypes about the Middle East to children.
  • The book says that Bella makes three wishes, but it's never quite clear to me what she's wishing for or why she's wishing for something. I think the concept of "wishes" could have been omitted without any loss to the plot or the message.
  • Some of the things that Bella does don't resemble any notion of real belly dancing. At one point it says she jumps high, in another place it says her leg kicks left and then right. I think it's great to encourage a child to do these things for the exercise and fun benefits, but it seems rather odd to incorporate them into a description of a belly dancing character!
  • There is nothing Middle Eastern about the melody line in the song on the CD that comes with it, which seems unfortunate for a book whose plot and illustrations otherwise are about a dance based in the Middle East.
  • The pages are not numbered.
  • The plot is rather weak.

 

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Conclusion

If I knew any girls in the 4-8 years old age range I'd probably think about giving them a copy of this book or suggest it to their mothers. The illustrations are appealing, and I enjoy the portrayal of a girl who is having so much dancing that she giggles and is always smiling.

The book is admittedly not great literature, but its happy tone may make you smile.

 

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Disclosures

Although I've had some e-mail correspondence with the author, I don't know her very well. After I wrote this review, she agreed to contribute some illustrations related to the book to the Belly Dance Coloring Book elsewhere on Shira.net.

 

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To Buy It

 

Contact Information

CarLou Media
3727 Magnolia Boulevard #467
Burbank, CA 91505

Phone: (818) 754-2573

 

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