Written by Anika Denise
Illustrated by Christopher Denise
$16.99, ages 3-8, 40 pages
A little girl braves the unknown of her new home with the help of her pudgy elephant toy, who grows to life-size when no one else is looking.
In this adorably illustrated book by the creators of Pigs Love Potatoes, a timid girl with pigtails puts on a happy face for her toy so that he doesn't feel as scared as she is.
As Bella leaves her old house with her stuffed elephant, Stella, clutched in her arm, she tries to act strong but inside her head is swirling with worry.
Counting every step leading out of the house, Bella looks back at the porch with sad eyes and assures her toy that everything will be okay.
But it's hard to let go of a house that's a home and through a car window Bella watches her home shrink away until there's nothing left to see.
Scrunched in beside her in the back seat, Stella has grown so huge that nothing else in the backseat can be seen.
In silence, the elephant looks back with the same nervous eyes, as the two snuggle through the drive together.
When they arrive at the house, Bella and Stella feel detached from everything they see. Even the porch steps are unfamiliar: there are ten instead of three.
Mommy says the house has character, but all Bella can see is dust, emptiness and all that's missing.
The kitchen walls are yellow instead of blue, and the yard has only shrubs and grass, not an oak tree like they're used to. And why does the bathtub have feet?
As they wander through the house, Bella comforts Stella, whose ears sag like those on a wet dog and her hooves point inward showing how shy she feels.
In one of the sweetest scenes, Stella crouches on her haunches behind Bella in the kitchen and from over Bella's shoulder, grips Bella's hand with her hoof.
Together, Bella and Stella glance apprehensively around the room, Bella's poofy pigtails, like giant pompoms, poised on her head and Stella's trunk curling under her chin.
After peeking around the downstairs, they come to the bottom of a shadowy staircase. Bella knows Stella is afraid of what might be up there, so she holds her hoof and leads her upstairs to three closed doors.
The first two doors open with a creak, but their bedroom door is quiet. The only problem is, it doesn't look at all like their room should. There are no polka dot curtains or stars on the ceiling. The only thing on the floor is a box.
Digging down inside, Bella pulls out her tea set and tries to cheer up Stella, who has plonked herself onto the floor, folded her arms tightly and narrowed her eyes into grumpy slits.
As the two sip pretend tea on a blanket on the floor, furniture from their old house starts to come in and Bella notices Stella is starting to feel better.
That night Bella turns on every light in the room to make up for the stars still missing from their ceiling and she snuggles onto her giant friend to go to sleep.
Now all they need are two friends just like them.
A perfect book for any child going somewhere new, Bella and Stella beautifully conveys how hard it is to let go of what is familiar, while celebrating the sweet bond between a child and her best toy.