Not a lot of children’s books use bats to tell stories, but Janell Cannon not only did just that, but also created a much-loved favorite that is already considered a classic. The title is also the name of the main character, a baby fruit bat called Stellaluna. One night while searching for food, an attacking owl knocks Stellaluna out of her mother’s grasp. She drops into a bird’s nest and from there tries to do everything the baby birds do. After learning to fly, she is finally found by her mother and can now act as she ought to as a bat.
Cannon’s gorgeous color pencil and acrylic illustrations perfectly embody the movements and awkwardness of a baby fruit bat. She dangles and struggles to get the right grip on a tree branch with soft and brown leathery wings stretched over the bark. Her face is all readers need to see when she finally gets on top, an adorable face of triumph. Using deep blue backgrounds for the skies, as well as browns and greens for forests, the dark colors punch up the contrast and put Stellaluna front and center every time.
The text can occasionally include interesting words children may not find elsewhere (“sultry” and “anxious”) in other books for young readers. They may provide a challenge, but parents can help and together you will delight in watching the little baby bat learn to use her wings and soar through the sky. Bats will no longer be scary creatures of the night, but animals just like any other with everything from fear of the unknown to loving parents.