Literature / Stellaluna

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Stellaluna is a short children's book published by author/illustrator Janell Cannon in 1993.

The story begins when a fruit bat pup named Stellaluna is separated from her mother in an owl attack. After a long fall, she lands in a sparrow's nest. The mother bird reluctantly takes Stellaluna under her wing on the condition that Stellaluna eats bugs and acts like a proper bird. This is in order to keep her from being a bad influence on the mother bird's actual offspring. When Stellaluna grows up, she begins to notice the differences between herself and her adoptive siblings and realises that she is a fruit bat. The book ends on the note that even though their adoptive family may be outwardly different, they're family, regardless, and still very much the same at heart.

The story was later made into an animated straight-to-DVD adaptation with a mixed critical response, as well as a Living Books interactive CD-ROM and a puppet show in Oregon.

This book provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: You should be true to yourself and your family will love you anyway. Or alternatively: Adoptive families can be just as loving as biological ones because deep down, people have more in common than they think.
  • Animal Talk
  • Bat Out of Hell: Thoroughly averted. The protagonist is a cute fruit bat struggling to fit in.
  • Black Sheep: Considering the fact that Stellaluna is a fruit bat in a family of songbirds, it would be nearly impossible for her to not be one.
  • Cool Big Sis: Stellaluna's siblings treat her as a cool big sister that they'd like to emulate. When Mama Bird catches them all dangling from the nest by their feet, she is not happy.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Stellaluna's inability to land on branches like her siblings makes her come off as one of these.
  • Foreign Queasine: Naturally, the prospect of eating bugs doesn't appeal to a frugivore like Stellaluna.
  • Good Parents: When Stellaluna is reunited with her biological mother, she's happy to finally have someone who understands and knows how to care for fruit bats.
  • Happily Adopted: Stellaluna may not have the best relationship with her adoptive mother, but she truly does love and care for her siblings, and they for her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Initially Stellaluna wishes that she could be more like her other siblings. She can't land or perch on branches like they can, and she doesn't like the same food or want to sleep the same hours or even in the proper position.
  • Interspecies Adoption: A fruit bat is adopted by a family of birds.
  • Meaningful Name: Stellaluna - Star Moon.
  • Meddling Parents: A lot of the tension between Stellaluna and her adoptive mother stem from the fact that Mama Bird wants Stellaluna to be more like a bird.
  • Missing Mom: Subverted with Mother Bat. At first, she's believed to be killed by the owl after Stellaluna falls down from her. Later on, it turns out she has escaped the owl.
    • Some editions of the book have small black-and-white pictures alongside the large color ones showing the mother bat's escape and subsequent search for Stellaluna.
  • Not So Different: Stellaluna and her bird siblings lampshade this at the end of the book.
  • Oblivious Adoption: After a while Stellaluna seems to forget that she's a fruit bat and appears to be genuinely surprised that fruits are delicious and that she can see in the dark.
  • Shown Their Work: While admittedly it was a rather short book, Janell Cannon managed to portray fruit bats rather accurately and never once fell victim to common stereotypes and misconceptions about bats.
  • Stellar Name: See Meaningful Name.
  • Super Senses: Stellaluna's siblings can hardly see anything at night and they don't have much of a sense of smell. Compared to them, Stellaluna practically has Super Senses.
  • The Un-Favourite: Stellaluna.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Zigzagged. On one hand, it was rare at the time for bats to be the star of children's books. On the other hand, the author did deliberately choose one of the cuter bat species as the protagonist.

The DVD adaptation provides examples of:

&&* Disneyfication
  • The Dreaded: Everyone in the jungle knows who the owl is, and sees him as a threat.
  • Hakuna Matata: "Best In You".
  • "I Want" Song: "(My Whole World's Turned) Upside Down".
  • Interspecies Romance: Horatio and Kasuku behave like a married couple despite one being a hornbill and the other being a parrot.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Horatio and Kasuku have this relationship. They constantly bicker and argue, but clearly love each other in the end.
  • Ominous Owl: The owl from the book is the main antagonist. Stellaluna and the baby birds constantly run into him, but they always manage to escape. At the climax, he kidnaps Momma Bird and plans to eat her, but Stellaluna leads the other bats to attack the owl. He flies away in terror, never to bother anyone again.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Askari is constantly gloating over what a great hero he is, despite not doing much.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The baby birds in the original book were much more accepting of their adopted sibling. Here, they are turned into Jerkasses who constantly boss Stellaluna around, even calling her "the worst bird in the world" at one point.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Mama Bird is much more accepting of the titular character in this version.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Horatio and Kasuku are never seen or mentioned again after their appearance.

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