Stellaluna, written and illustrated by Janell Cannon, subtly embraces two very important messages that should be passed onto readers adult and children alike. Through scientifically accurate but endearing illustrations and a moving story, it presses the importance embracing differences, and the fact that true happiness lies in being yourself.
What Happens in ‘Stella Luna’?
Every night as she goes in search of food, a mother fruit bat clutches her newborn, Stellaluna, tightly to her breast, keeping her safe and secure. One night, when Stellaluna is still helpless in the air with her wet papery wings, an owl attacks. In the chaos that ensues Stellaluna’s mother loses her grip on her baby, who plummets down towards the ground.
Stellaluna falls through a tangle of branches until she can finally grab onto one small enough for her tiny feet. She hangs there until daybreak, when weak with exhaustion she has to let go. Fatefully, she lands headfirst in a birds nest. From that day on she must learn to live life as a feathered bird, swallowing crawly bugs and sleeping upright at night, rather than hanging upside down and sleeping during the day. But denying her nature does not feel right. It isn’t until fate once again takes unexpected control that Stellaluna is able to figure how she should be pursuing her life at a fruit bat-not a bird.
Janell Cannon designed and developed summer reading programs for children for many years. With a passion for the natural world and all its creatures, she often emphasized reading about animals that were not typically thought of as ‘cute’ to dispel myths about them. This is how she decided to choose bats as the topic of her first children’s book. She draws her characters very accurately and in close resemblance to real life, but brings out a certain sweetness in their expressions that is exceptionally captivating. Her rich colors, particularly in the night skies, and the fawn colored bats contrast each other beautifully. Her artwork is beautifully detailed.
Stellaluna is a wonderful book. I myself grew up with it, and as a lover of nature quickly claimed it as one of my favorites. It is a bit more text heavy than some children’s books, but the writing is wonderful and entertaining, and in my experience little ones, for the most part, have no trouble engaging in the story. The artwork is superb, and after just a few pages it’s impossible to not love Stellaluna.
In addition to the basic components that make this a wonderful book (good illustrations/writing) there are lessons embedded in it that are particularly important for children to take away. As they are growing up, they’re on a constant quest to discover who they are and where they fit in in the world. As adults we’re still seeking our path as well, but we have a bit more experience in how to guide ourselves. Children, on the other hand, have very little. Stellaluna, with its lessons about learning the importance of being yourself, as well as accepting and enjoying the differences of other beings, can help illuminate the way to going about finding your place.