My Material Life

More Dare Wright from A Palo Alto Treasure Trove

In the late 80s and most of the 90s I worked in Palo Alto. I don’t get downtown much anymore but we visited yesterday and my first order of business was to seek out this place …

Bell’s Books – I was so delighted to see that it was still there and in such good form.


You won’t find many 80-year-old businesses in this valley of silicon anymore. The rents are way too high for many independent shops, not to mention people who are looking for a place to live or who would like to stay in the place they currently live were it not for landlords who think they can get more money (and do) or those with designs for development. I’m guessing the Bell family owns this space. I sure hope so anyway. With changes in this area coming at such a fast and more furious pace recently we need some constancy in our city centers. Especially with something so rare as a bookstore – and what a fine one Bell’s is.


Samantha found a little board book called Slinky Malinki that Mr. Raggedy Ears (not his real name) seems to be enjoying in this photo. It’s just his size and favorite subject matter. He probably thinks it’s all about him.

I found a new set of Agatha Christie paperbacks, at least two of which I haven’t read. I figured we were ready to check out, but then another book caught my eye …

It was The Lonely Doll Learns a Lesson by Dare Wright. I didn’t have any Lonely Doll books of my own yet and am so crazy about Dare Wright’s photography that I had to buy it. The ladies working at Bell’s told me they found it at an estate sale in Los Altos Hills and had just put it out. How lucky was I?! That photo from the end paper on the inside of the back cover is my favorite. How did Dare Wright do it? The movement on the doll – her dress, her hair, the position of her body, and with a real kitten – amazing!

mml lonely doll learns lesson back cover

Here is Dare Wright’s photo from the back cover of the book, published in 1961. If you’d like to learn more about her and her other books I suggest you start here. And when planning a visit to Palo Alto be sure to do yourself a favor and seek out Bell’s Books. You could tell them Dare Wright sent you 🙂



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