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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 songbird's nest. The mother bird reluctantly takes Stellaluna under her wing on the condition that Stellaluna behaves like a proper bird (sleeping at night, eating insects, etc), 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 a Direct to Video animated movie in 2004 (with the titular character voiced by Chiara Zanni), which received a mixed critical response, as well as a Living Books interactive CD-ROM and a puppet show in Oregon. Another puppet show adaptation was performed at "Speeltheater Holland" in the Netherlands in 2008.


This book provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: 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 little 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 not to be one.
  • Cool Big Sis: Pip, Flitter, and Flap treat Stellaluna 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.
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  • 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 her.
  • 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 bird brothers. She can't land or perch right-side up like they can, she doesn't like the same food, and she doesn't want to sleep the same hours or even in the same 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 stems from the fact that Mama Bird wants Stellaluna to behave 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.
    • Most 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 adopted 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.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: One might have expected a story about a fruit bat to center around flying foxes (genus Pteropus). However, Janell Cannon based Stellaluna and her mother on epauletted fruit bats (genus Epomophorus). She has specifically cited the Gambian species (E. gambianus) as the model for the characters, noting its vaguely canine looks and generally friendly personality.
  • Shown Their Work: While it was, admittedly, a rather short book, Janell Cannon managed to portray fruit bats accurately and never once fell victim to common stereotypes and misconceptions about bats.
  • Stellar Name: See Meaningful Name.
  • Super Senses: Pip, Flitter and Flap 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. Mother Bird accuses her of encouraging her chicks to do dangerous things when they imitate her habit of hanging by her feet.
  • 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:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Added a wise-cracking superhero jumping spider named "Askari" as a sidekick, and a fashion bird duo to the story. They also made the Owl a bigger threat.
  • Adaptational 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.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Mama Bird is much more accepting of the titular character in this version.
  • Animated Adaptation
  • Ascended Extra: The owl becomes the main Big Bad, serving as a threat to not only Stellaluna, but also to the sparrow family and the rest of the forest as well.
  • Canon Foreigner: Askari, Horatio, and Kasuku.
  • Cut Short / Poorly Disguised Pilot: The movie finishes with a seemingly clear plan for a TV series adaptation of the original book, but one never got made.
  • 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.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Though their names are only confirmed in the closing credits, Mother Bat is given the name Estrella and Mama Bird is named Nestra.
    • In Mother Bat's case, this crosses over with Meaningful Name, as estrella means "star" in Spanish.
  • 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.
  • Short Film: The movie's only about 40 minutes long.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Askari is constantly gloating over what a great hero he is, despite not doing much.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Horatio and Kasuku are never seen or mentioned again after their appearance.


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