Stellaluna: the fruit bat that filled my childhood
The story of my favorite children's tale! Stellaluna is a kid's book written by Janell Cannon.
Until the age of about 12, I waited every night for my mom to read me a bedtime story. That may seem a little old for a bedtime story, but my rotation of books had become so enticing I read them by myself long after my mom stopped. Among my most-read stories were books such as Trouble in Walla Walla, Aunt Flossie's Hats (and crab cakes later), The Rough face girl, Bad Kitty, Autumn, and one of my heaviest rotations; Stellaluna.
Stellaluna is the timeless story of a baby fruit bat who gets separated from her mother and falls into a bird's nest. Since she cannot take care of herself, she ends up living with the birds until she is old enough to fly. But living with the birds also means she must live like a bird. She cannot sleep upside down like a bat, she cannot eat fruit as fruit bats do, and she cannot sleep during the day. Although mother bird is raising her baby birds as she should, Stellaluna, unfortunately, grows up believing her instincts as a bat are wrong. That is until she finally flies away and meets other bats while she was sleeping like a bird. After meeting the bats, she is finally reunited with her own mother and embraces being a bat again. However, Stellaluna never stops being friends with the baby birds she grew up with. Instead, they embrace that their differences do not matter and even acknowledge the nature of their friendship.
"How can we be so different and feel so much alike?" mused Flitter.
"I think it's quite a mystery," Flap chripred.
"I agree," said Stellaluna.
"But we're friends. And that's a fact"
After showing her bird friends what it's like to live like a bat and eat sweet mangoes all day, the story ends.
Stellaluna also gives a subtle message about self-identity. Since Stellaluna grew up with birds she had to ignore her instincts and force herself to be something that she isn't. Although it was so hard for her, she ate bugs that tasted bad, slept right side up like a bird, and stayed up all day instead of night. When she finally does meet bats again and they tell her that those things are okay for a bird but not a bat, Stellaluna finally realizes she can be herself again. This can be a parallel to real life for people in real life who might be surrounded by other people who force them to act in a way unnatural to them. Carrying the message that if you find people like yourself, you can feel free again and accept yourself as you are.
Being the animal-loving child I was, this story had all the key points for me! And as a kid growing up in suburban Atlanta and Florida, there were many different ethnicities and races who live, work, and go to school together. When I was a child, I do not ever remember thinking of other races being different from me. And I honestly do not think many children think that way unless they are taught to think so. Either way, being a kid and hearing a story such as Stellaluna, where 2 species of animals become friends even though they are so different can be very influential. Especially since I attended public school and constantly met people who were different from me.
Although many children probably focus on the cute baby bats and birds, when we grow older and remember what stories we loved as kids, it's important to analyze what type of story we admired so much.
For me, stories like Stellaluna taught me that even if you're "different" from someone else, you probably feel alike on the inside. And just because you're different does not mean you can't be friends. Just like Stellaluna and the birds Flap, Pip, and Flitter.
Other than the lovely message about friendship and self-identity, Stellaluna and other stories with animal protagonists also contributed to my love for animals. Especially since the back of the book Stellaluna features facts about bats such as:
"Of the nearly 4,000 species of mammals on Earth, almost one quarter are bats, the only mammals capable of powered flight."
"Fruit bats generally have large eyes, pointy ears, and furry bodies-" (much like my cat)
You can definitely say this children's story has shaped part of who I am. Since in my house our oldest cat's name is Stellaluna named of course after the book. Not only did she look like the baby bat when she was a kitten, but our cat Stellaluna also loves to mingle with animals of other species. So overall, the name suits her well.
I know one day when I have children, this book will be mandatory at our house, so I know my kids can enjoy this book as much as I did.