Starabella Book Reviews


Starabella Bookseries Review by Miss Mom-vocate:
There is always a lot of talk about Autism AWARENESS. And, don’t get me wrong, I am a supporter of bringing Autism Awareness to the forefront. But, what I, as a mother of a young son on the spectrum, want more than anything is ACCEPTANCE. Some may see acceptance as being the same as awareness, but it is so much more than that.

While I could care less how MUCH you learn about autism, I only sincerely wish that my son be accepted for the brilliant, loving and bright spirit that he is. It is the much EASIER thing for one to chose to be accepting, for it requires only you open your heart. Acceptance doesn’t require that you give money, walk an organized walk or read an article. Acceptance requires that you value all that these magnificent spectrum children have to offer. And, what they have to offer is so valuable. I always tell my boys, “Wouldn’t it be so boring if we were all alike?” Click here to read the full review.

REVIEW by Nicole Balsome, Special Ed Kindergarten Teacher, [email protected], Bronx, NY

It was wonderful to receive the Starabella Series. We received the 3 books and a supplemental CD with all the music from the stories. The books are Starabella: Welcome to a Bright New World”(Starabella at School), “Starabella: Mystery Girl of Music”(Starabella at Home), and “Starabella: New Adventures and Mixed Emotions”(Starabella in the Community). Each book comes with a narrated story with music CD.

I am a 6:1:1 classroom teacher in D75. My students were able to relate with Starbella and her experiences. As a professional it was wonderful to find a series written with everyday experiences that my students were afraid or feared. My students enjoyed the narrated story with music CD vs. reading the story alone. My class had two learning levels – early and advance. The early learners loved the music and colorful pictures throughout the series. The advance learners loved the pictures and the stories. The advance learners were able to relate to each story, label Starabella’s feelings, and answer reading comprehension questions. Overall I would recommend this series to general education classes and district 75 classes. For a general education class it would teach empathy, acceptance, and friendship without having to adapt the stories. For a district 75 class it is a wonderful series for social stories and captivating music and the stories can be adapted.

“Starabella: Welcome to a Bright New World”
This book was about Starbella as she begins her 1st day of kindergarten. It was wonderful to find a book with such a diverse group of students just like my classroom. The students can relate to the starting of school, making friends, accepting others, and dealing with a classroom bully.

“Starabella: Mystery Girl of Music”
This book was about Starbella as enters the world as a baby and how she grows into a young child. This story gave you the background information about Starbella. My students enjoyed seeing her grow up and loved when she received the piano. My advanced learners had many questions about this book and learned how to understand her frustrations of not being able to speak.

“Starabella: New Adventures and Mixed Emotions”
This was the book that was most loved by my class and myself. Starabella ventures into the community with her parents. She encounters demands and has to learn to follow the rules. Starabella went to the circus and had a wonderful time until the loud music became too much due to her sensory issues. She learned to deal with all the mixed feelings she was having at the circus by using her favorite item the piano to sort them out. This story really prepared my students for our trip to the circus and that it was ok to feel that way. It was a great social story.

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to use the series in my classroom and for writing a review. I look forward to more stories.

Nicole Balsome
[email protected]

Autism and Acceptance: The Starabella Book Series 

Autism and Acceptance: The Starabella Book Review
—By Kimberly Scanlon of Scanlon Speech Therapy, author of My Toddler Talks

Unique. Engaging. Heart-Warming. Relevant. Needed.
These are just a few words that come to mind when I think about the exceptional book series, Starabella.

“In honor of Autism awareness month, I’m thrilled to introduce, the story of Starabella to my readers. The Starabella book series was created by the Fialco family with the hope of spreading empathy, acceptance and kindness for those who may be different. Starabella beautifully personifies autism and allows us to enter the world of a young girl with high functioning autism. It creates a visceral reaction of hope and promise.” Click here to read the full review.

Starabella Book Review by John from Elementary Special
It is my pleasure to write this Starabella book review. Based upon a real family and the experiences of their daughter in both social and academic settings, this book is wonderfully and compassionately written. Click here to read the full review.

We are so proud to have Natalia as one of Starabella’s adorable fans!! Here she is in her musical tribute. Yay, Natalia! You make our eyes shine like stars!!


Starabella: Mystery Girl of Music
A Narrated Story With Music – First Story in Trilogy
Review by Glenda Bixler of Book Reader’s Heaven

A Narrated Story With Music – First Story in Trilogy

Reviewing children’s books is just a little bit different in my opinion. Especially for this trilogy, which is so much more than a child’s story book. If I were looking at a book for an adult, I would consider this and the other two books literary marvels. First, the book itself is illustrated by Anton Petrov and the quality of the art itself is superb! These books really need to be in every community library across the nation, in my opinion!

The next issue that must be addressed is that the book comes with a complete CD Recording, not only of the songs, but the story itself. There are little touches, such as, “turn the page” commands that will help younger children learn not only how to read a book, but, by having the book read to them and seeing the words and pictures, they will be able to use it as a reading training tool as well… Click here to read the full review.


Starabella: New Adventures and Mixed Emotions
A Narrated Story With Music – Second Story in Trilogy
Review by Glenda Bixler of Book Reader’s Heaven

Imagine as a child that first big event you experienced–for Starabella that was the circus! The Music, The Clowns, The Animals… Starabella loved the trapeze artists best and she began to imagine what it would be like to fly through the air! She was thinking so hard that all of the other noises and activities got in her way and she began to feel sad…then bad…

But when they left and went home, Starabella could begin to remember how she was so overwhelmed with everything at the circus. She started laughing and ran through the house–Laughing, Laughing, Laughing!

So much that her parents began to worry about her. Finally though, her mother shouted to ask her why she was laughing…Her response was that she didn’t know!

Finally, she was able to play the piano to express her feelings…Click here to read the full review as part of the trilogy. Click here to read the full review.


Starabella: Welcome to a Bright New World
A Narrated Story with Music – Final Story in Trilogy
Review by Glenda Bixler of Book Reader’s Heaven

The final story is perhaps the most important – but then again – our lives are formed right from the first day we are born… Starabella was a little special star born to a loving family. Her family never knew until she was 21 exactly why she was special…

So there was never any thought about having her attend school with all the other children…

At first she was excited, and when her mother took her to meet her new teacher Miss Maradise, she thought she was very nice!

And wait until you meet her new schoolmates:

Emilio, Josh, Tomiko, Jeremy, Julian, Elizabeth, Malia, Zandrina, and Lifisha… Click here to read the full review

Think Inclusive, by Tim Villegas

“The first thing you need to know about this remarkable series of books is how fun it is for kids of all ages to listen and interact with. It is hard to describe the initial reaction my kids (six and three) had when they opened the colorful and brilliantly illustrated books.” Click here to read the complete review. The Queens Jewish Link

Starabella Series reviewed by Lorey Friedman, The Power of a Song: How One Family Is Teaching Social Sensitivity One Note At a Time.
“A wonderful, comprehensive review of the background, goals, and purpose of the Starabella narrated picture books with music.” Click here to read the full review beginning on page 69.

Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Review of the Starabella Three-Book Series
“I absolutely loved these books! Not only are the stories wonderful and meaningful; full of valuable lessons and adventures, the illustrations are also beautiful. When you accompany a meaningful, beautifully illustrated story with an a CD that is narrated with music is makes the reading adventures come alive. Any child, with or without learning difficulties, has difficult moments from time to time and the Starabella series focuses on the magic that makes all of us different! I love that the authors were able to include the importance of empathy, inclusion, social conflict resolution, anti-bullying, and making friends into stories that created great dialogue with my children. I applaud the authors for creating stories that enhanced my parenting and my children’s sense of self and respect for others! I rate this series 100 stars!!!!”  Click here for full review.

Review by Cara Batema, Special

  •  Starabella, Mystery Girl of Music: Starabella is the heroine of a series of three audio and picture books about a girl with learning differences whose eyes shine like stars when she is happy.  Book one is entitled Starabella: Mystery Girl of Music, and it centers around Starabella’s experiences at home. Book Review
  •  Starabella, New Adventures and Mixed Emotions: Starabella is a captivating story about a young girl with learning differences who expresses herself through music.  In the second  book in this series, Starabella ventures out into the community and finds herself riveted by the circus but later faces sensory overload. Book Review
  • Starabella, Weclome to a Bright New World: Now that we’ve seen Starabella at home (Mystery Girl of Music) and in the community (New Adventures and Mixed Emotions), it’s time to travel with her to school in book three of the Starabella series, Welcome to a Bright New World.  Book Review

Review by Lisa A. Fraser, Forest Hills Parents Teach Empathy Through Their Story

Starabella’s eyes “shine like stars” when she’s happy. The young protagonist in a audio/picture book series is bright-eyed and full of wonder and her ability to create music and songs has made her parents proud. Read the full review in the Queens Ledger

ReadAutism Spectrum, Family Creates the Starabella Series: A Model of Inclusion for All Children

Meet Starabella: a courageous and talented girl with learning differences who expresses herself through music — and when she’s happy, Starabella’s eyes shine like stars. Click here to read the full review.

Midwest Book Review
Starabella At School
, Book Three of Starabella Welcome to a Bright New World is an illustrated book CD voyage for children ages 3 and up and adults who care for them. Created by the joint efforts of parent and two daughters, the “Starabella” series is based on biographical experiences of Tara Fialco, talented musician and child educator who was diagnosed as autistic at age 21. The “Starabella” series is a masterful effort to communicate in song the need for understanding and inclusion especially in educational settings. Starabella is a specially gifted child who learns and communicates best through music and song. Her educational experiences are at times challenging and painful, but she overcomes her difficulties and encourages others to do the same, by discovering and expressing her talents and gifts. The songs of “Starabella at School” are a delightful way to enrich educational curriculum to encourage sensitivity and inclusiveness and also a new way to approach bullying issues and problems. Song composed and performed by the authors are both enchanting and inspirational, and the cheerful but descriptive illustrations and story convey some of the feelings that Starabella expresses so well in song. CD recording produced by Joe Vulpis, AP Music Inc.

Review by Lou Melgarejo of Lou’s Land
Not long after I put out “Fixing” Autism I read a comment from a woman by the name of Sharon Fialco saying that they too had a child on the spectrum and that her daughter was very musical. In fact her daughter was a pianist and composer. Together with her family they put together a trilogy of books complete with musical accompaniment. The comment was very warm and touching. Sharon went on to say that she was so moved by my video that she wanted to send me a copy of the books as a sign of appreciation for my video. Read Lou’s Land Blog, Starabella Shines Bright!


Get to Know the Fialco Family and Learn Why They Came Together to Produce the Starabella Narrated Musical Picture Books of Acceptance The Power of Song Sends Strength to Us All

How One Family’s Harmony is Teaching Social Sensitivity to the Youngest Kids One Word at a Time

*The following story is a reprint of a news story by Lorey Friedman

This is a story of hope, endurance and determination. A non- fictional tale of a family sustained by love, working together, united in harmony, producing beautiful music and using Gd’s challenges and special gifts in ways they never thought was imaginable. The distinguished, nominated, award winning, popular book series entitled Starabella (notice the name Tara in the middle) is a unique family project where mother, father and sisters use their individual talents to achieve one goal. Starabella mirrors the aspirations of the Fialco family of Forest Hills, NY which is for all people to achieve social sensitivity.


The Fialco Family

Forty one years ago, beautiful baby Tara was born to Sharon and Marvin Fialco. A vivacious, energetic child, Tara would later present perplexing challenges to her parents. Unable to get a diagnosis, they were left with a mystery. The Fialco’s became creative in overcoming obstacles, trying hard to mainstream their daughter into society. But, when Tara was six years old, her grandparents sent her a gift that would alter the family’s life forever. Arriving to their Honolulu Hawaii home was a piano. Tara took to the piano as if it were a part of her. She memorized the sound of every key and soon taught herself to play any music she heard by ear. She began to compose her own music. Through music she was able to express her thoughts and emotions and reflections on the world around her. The lyrics to her songs showed that she was philosophically precocious. Sharon and Marvin Fialco were lifted by the music to a place of joy where they experienced great pride and marveled not only at Tara’s ability but at the blessing of her gift.

The piano became Tara’s voice of her soul. As if dealing with her personal challenges wasn’t enough, she was forced to face insensitivity by other children. This and dealing with the rest of society pushed her into feelings of isolation. Despite the rejection and cruelness around her, Tara would play songs of hope that reflected her belief in the potential goodness in all people. She created a musical, magical world where all people got along and were accepted exactly the way they were. It is in her music that Tara’s genuine nature lies. She shares her vision of a better world to include all people.

Dana, Tara’s younger sister with tremendous abilities and talents of her own took an early interest in Tara’s circumstances and in her music. Dana began writing lyrics to Tara’s music and they would later perform extensively together in local communities. Rather than have their differences separate them, these two sisters were able to connect with their musical talents and shared ideals.

In 1993, Tara and Dana made their first recording of a song called “A New Beginning”. The song epitomizes Tara and Dana’s joint musical philosophy. When they recorded the song, they hoped to remind people that it is possible and necessary not only to reach each other, but also to gain a greater sense of personal fulfillment and self-realization. They wanted to inspire their listeners to make new beginnings personally, nationally and globally. These sentiments are just as meaningful today. In fact, Dana has recently recorded “A New Beginning” for re-release.

With tremendous determination and all her innate strength, Tara went on to earn a certificate in Early Childhood Education from Honolulu Community College. She put her degree to good use as she brings her musical message to children. Since Tara’s mother Sharon, had been Tara’s study buddy, she also informally received an education about child development. Thus, Sharon became inspired to write interactive, educational shows for children incorporating Tara’s music. Tara and her mother made props and scenery and together with guitar, keyboard and amplifier performed in classrooms filled with all types of children. In 1994, even before receiving Tara’s diagnosis of Autism and two years before their move to New York, the Starabella book series emerged from their observations of children at play where Tara performed. They noticed that anyone can become the object of ostracism. Combining Tara’s childhood dilemmas with those of other children, the stories cover a broad spectrum of personal and social situations children confront at home, in the community, and in school. The Starabella stories have been presented in many settings and continually revised to reflect current conditions.

The Starabella stories hope to encourage the trend of structuring programs to meet the various needs of individual students. If done correctly, all children benefit since being a member of a diverse learning environment prepares all children to feel comfortable in a multicultural, diverse world.

In Book One, children meet Starabella and follow her through babyhood and her early toddler years in the private world of her home. She is the focus of the attention of her family and they do all they can to meet her needs.

In Book Two, children follow Starabella as she ventures into the community, where there are demands for conformity and expectations for appropriate behaviors and following the rules. Just as Tara did, she has the supervision, support and guidance of her parents.

In Book Three, a major turning point occurs for readers and characters as Starabella enters the public arena of kindergarten, where children begin to make their own behavior choices and form their own rules. Children meet the wonderful character of a teacher named Miss Maradise who helps make rules that serve the needs of the whole.

Starabella and her classmates model the behavior of children who embrace diversity in their friendships and make empathetic social choices. They all work cooperatively to achieve their mutual goal of getting to a “Bright New World”, as Book Three of Starabella is appropriately named.

The entire Fialco family has been “in”volved and “in”cluded in this project that surely is one of the best live models of inclusion. Each family member contributed what they were best in and together used their strengths to achieve their goal. The Starabella project, from its earliest days of Tara and Dana’s childhood music to the CD’s and books being heard and read today, reflect and mirror that each of us has something useful to contribute. Starabella brings out the good in everyone.

These wonderful books that have and continue to be the heart and soul of the Fialco family enhance their life with special meaning and purpose. There is an important, necessary message emitted, not just for the children they are intended for. From these books, we can all learn the importance of creating a socially sensitive environment in the school or really any social setting. Learning institutions must be an emotionally and physically safe place for all, where every student is able to contribute. It is only in this type of culture that each pupil can prosper and reach his or her own goals. Not only will the child with special needs succeed. Indeed, showing all types of children diversity helps them to accept difference and live in a diverse world.

Each beautiful Starabella hardcover book comes with its own CD, captivating and fully narrated and sung by Dana, accompanied by Tara on keyboard. Amazing, vibrant illustrations by Anton Petrov with captions help the listener follow along with the story. CD recordings were produced by Joe Vulpis, AP Music Inc. Written by Sharon, narrated by Dana and based on the inspirational music by Tara, the message of both storybook and music strives to give people the courage to reach for their dreams.

The reader joins the Oclaif (Fialco spelled backwards) in their celebration and triumph over adversity. Pleasantly surprising to author Sharon, children without special learning needs are relating to and rooting for the character Starabella, showing indeed that all of us are filled with kindness and compassion. Starabella really does bring out the best in all of us.

Wondering about Dad? Well, without Marvin Fialco’s belief in the value of this project and the support and confidence he gave his family, the dream of his wife and daughters would not have become a reality. He provided counsel and feedback every step of the way. Yes, indeed, Dad was and is, a true partner in this family project.

The Fialco family hopes that children (and adults as well) everywhere will see how brilliantly their eyes will shine and how they become empowered when they have the courage to act on their own to reach out a hand to another child, or another person, and see that child, that individual reach out to another and on and on and on. These are the hands that can unite the world. Taken from lyrics of Tara and Dana’s music, “It’s only up to you.”

To order your copy of Book One, Book Two, Book Three, the complete Three Book Series please click here.