Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Stellaluna

Go To
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: The birds can talk to the bats despite being different species.
  • 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.
  • Central Theme: According to Jannell Cannon, the book focuses primarily on the universality of feeling like "a bat in a bird's world."
  • 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 across as one of these.
  • Deconstruction: The book picks at the idea of "problem children" through Stellaluna's relationship with her bird family. The mother bird sees Stellaluna's behavior as a bad influence on Pip, Flitter, and Flap, and thus tries to force her into acting more like a "real" bird. However, the book makes it abundantly clear that Stellaluna's simply a different kind of being expressing different needs in different ways; once she reunites with her bat family, she's able to thrive thanks to them understanding and meeting her needs as a bat.
  • Foreign Queasine: Naturally, the prospect of eating bugs doesn't appeal to a frugivore like Stellaluna.
  • Good Parents: When Stellaluna is reunited with her birth 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 siblings. 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 (though temporarily) by a family of birds.
  • Meaningful Name: Stellaluna — "Star Moon."
  • 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.
  • Oblivious Adoption: After a while, Stellaluna seems to forget that she's a bat and appears to be genuinely surprised that fruits are delicious and that she can see in the dark.
  • One-Word Title: Only One Name-type Protagonist Title.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: When Mother Bird scolds Stellaluna to act like a bird, the bat has a rather pitiable expression.
  • 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: "Stella" means "star" and "Luna" means "moon".
  • 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.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: After being separated from her mother, the book simultaneously depicts Stellaluna's life with the bird family (depicted in pencil & paint illustrations and text) and her mother's search for her (depicted in ink drawings above the text). The two storylines eventually converge once Stellaluna and her mother reunite.
  • Too Desperate to Be Picky: Stellaluna only eats the bugs Mother Bird brings when she's really hungry. When she reunites with her bat mother and learns to eat fruit, she says to herself she'll never eat another bug as long as she lives.
  • 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 stars of children's books. On the other hand, the author deliberately chose one of the cuter bat species as the protagonist.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: 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.

The animated movie 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: With the exception of the Living Books version, this is the only fully-animated adaptation of the original story.
  • Anthropomorphic Shift: The bodies and general designs of the main characters are about the same as in the book, but they've been given somewhat more human-like faces so they can be more expressive.
  • 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.
  • Family Theme Naming: Stellaluna and her mother, Estrella, both have Stellar Names.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Mother Bat's name, Estrella, means "star" in Spanish.
  • 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.
  • 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.