How the Starabella Books Meet Social & Emotional Goals



for kids 2-8

By Sharon Fialco, Tara Fialco and Dana Fialco Masters –

a mom and two daughters


Through three award-winning, fully narrated audio picture books, with uplifting music and accompanying vibrant illustrations, Starabella tells the story of a determined, musically talented little girl with learning differences. Her eyes shine like stars when she’s happy! Does Starabella have a special connection to the stars? IT’S A MYSTERY.

Children make an emotional connection with Starabella the minute they open to page one of the first picture book in the series, with its expressive illustrations as the audio begins. They hear a baby crying then babbling sweetly in the background of the gentle narration, all underscored with music. Some comments of many from parents and teachers include: “I’ve never experienced anything like the Starabella book series. Experiencing these books appeal to your visual, auditory, and emotional senses.” “Superb illustrations and lively music drive the narration and the story, which makes the Starabella experience both auditory and visual to reach many children of all learning styles and abilities.” “ Treat the books more like an event than simply something to read. The whole presentation has been created to be entertaining and fun for the readers, even while they are learning so much.” “Love shines through the stories.” 

In Book One, “Starabella: Mystery Girl of Music” they visit Starabella as a baby and young toddler in the privacy of her home. In Book Two, “Starabella: New Adventures and Mixed Emotions” they join her when she is a little older, out in the community. Children who listen to and view Books One and Two celebrate Starabella’s accomplishments, feel compassion for her extra challenges, root for her to reach her goals, and gain understanding of her emotions through her music. They acquire empathy for her by the time she enters kindergarten as a member of a diverse kindergarten classroom in Book Three, “Starabella: Welcome to a Bright New World.”

Children transfer the empathy they form for Starabella to others. In Book Three they meet Starabella’s classmates, a cross-section of lively children of different races, religions, attitudes, cognitive and physical challenges, abilities and dreams. They often relate to one or a combination of the characters. Children are offered a unique, way to solve familiar social conflict and bullying issues that arise in Starabella’s class. They interact with the story by making social decisions from multiple choices offered by Starabella’s teacher. They are aided by viewing their reflections in a “Magical Mirror” found in the book. If they see a smile and that their eyes are shining like stars, they know they made the friendliest choice. They send their thoughts to help the children in the story. When the issues are resolved, children share in wonder as Starabella’s special connection to the stars is revealed. Through the goodness inside her and her special connection to the stars, Starabella magically transforms into a Kindergarten Rock Star. Rising on a star-shaped stage, dressed all glittery, stars swirling around her, holding a microphone, she sings the rousing rock song, “Follow Me.” She leads her classmates and children listening to a Bright New World where “children play and get along and are accepted for exactly who they are.”

Starabella is a family project – a true labor of love. My daughter Tara, a pianist and composer who deals with the challenges of autism, used her beloved piano to express many of her thoughts and feelings through music. Often teased and isolated at school, Tara came home and played songs that reflected the childhood wonder of the world around her. She played musical interpretations of the seasons: “The Seasons Flow With Music;” the sights and sounds of the circus: “The Exciting Circus;” a song for her cat: “Kitten Kaboodle,” etc. Some of her songs included touching melodies with lyrics about a far more socially sensitive world than the world she had to face each day. For example, her songs, “Welcome to a Bright New World,” and “I Can Fly in a Dream Full of Happiness” imagined children playing together up in the clouds. These songs expressed her belief in the goodness in others. It was her dream that they would come together in a world in which all children were included and valued for who they are.

Tara’s dream became the inspiration for our family to produce the Starabella series. We wanted to bring Tara’s vision of social harmony expressed through her music to all children to help make her dream a reality. 17of the 22 songs and instrumentals in the series were written by Tara as a young child. She performed them on keyboard and piano for the audio portion of the books. Tara’s music represents the thoughts and feelings of the stories’ heroine, Starabella. The series is an example of siblings working together and combining their talents. Tara and her sister Dana, a talented singer, performed music together in their communities throughout their childhoods. For the Starabella series, Dana wrote additional music from the viewpoint of Starabella’s parents and teacher, narrated the stories, and sang the songs.

Tara’s experiences were not unique. Too many children face discrimination and/or bullying at school every day. Through the messages and examples in the books, children learn the benefits of making behavioral choices based on empathy and reaching out to include others to create sensitive social environments. It is our goal to teach children to accept and celebrate each other’s differences rather than excluding, fearing, and bullying those who seem “different.” The Starabella stories encourage them to listen to the good voice inside themselves rather than following the loudest, most threatening voice.

We have exhibited the Starabella books at many family outreach events and fairs hosted by NYC District 75 schools. The books have been bought by many parents for their children and I have donated many sets of the books to be used in classrooms.

The Starabella picture books are divided into chapters to accommodate individual attention spans. The audio-visual format appeals to various learning styles. Parents who have shared the books with their children, with and without special needs, report that the three books of the Starabella series are their child’s favorite books. I have received many letters from teachers who have used the books successfully in their classrooms. I have also been asked many times if our books are available for purchase through the DOE. We are asking for support to make that happen.

We are eager to make the books available to students in special needs, regular and combination education classrooms. There is diversity in all classrooms. If children become comfortable with differences at their earliest ages, negative thoughts can be prevented from escalating to destructive behaviors. The Starabella books help to actualize the goals of the NYC school policy, RESPECT FOR ALL.

Starabella has won multiple awards including a Nautilus award – a “major” award. ”The Nautilus Book Awards recognize and reward a group of world-changing, award winning books and celebrate how they contribute to positive social change, …”

Starabella fits into the category of SOCIAL and EMOTIONAL LEARNING (S.E.L.). S.E.L. is recognized as crucial for children to reach their full potential. Environments in which children they feel physically and emotionally safe and valued lays the foundation for them to concentrate and develop what is special inside them. S.E.L. forms the base for all types of learning, including academic learning.

The Starabella series addresses the goals of S.E.L. in some of the following ways:

SELF-AWARENESS – the stories show readers/listeners how Starabella learns to deal with her challenges and focus on her strengths and abilities. This leads to a positive sense of self.

SELF CONTROL – readers/listeners modify their impulsive responses by slowing down and learning to understand others through discussion of feelings motivated by the actions of the characters in the books.

SOCIAL AWARENESS – readers/listeners relate to and understand Starabella’s feelings through her music. They learn through Starabella and the other characters in the series that other children have feelings and experiences much like their own.

RELATIONSHIP SKILLS – by the examples of the characters in Book Three, children see what is gained by befriending others seemingly not like themselves.

RESPONSIBLE DECISION MAKING –seeing their reflections using a mirror to make social choices, readers/listeners are able to get in touch with their emotions. That enables them to monitor their own behaviors and make decisions on their own as opposed to being told what to do.

Starabella is a heroine for all children. The stories and music speak to anyone who has ever felt different for any reason, or who has treated someone else poorly for seeming different. If we can teach children at an early age to practice empathy and appreciate each other’s differences and abilities, they grow into adults who can achieve a better, more peaceful world.

Starabella speaks to the place in all children yearning for acceptance and understanding. Together, children can create the world of their dreams. So, “GET READY TO ROCK!” Starabella is leading the way. Follow her there – to a Bright New World.

Thank you for your interest in Starabella.

Sharon Fialco,


Fialco Productions, Inc.

Starabella narrated picture books with music






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