Stellaluna or talking about identity

Janell Cannon, Stellaluna

Published 1993 by HMH Books, 48p


I have always appreciated the authors that use neglected animals in their stories and even empower them with the main roles. Stellaluna is a nice story, a beautiful combination of fantasy and scientific information about bats, a parable about survival, identity, family and friendship. I would say it is a very good and original variation of The Ugly Duckling.

Stellaluna, a baby fruit bat, is separated from her mother after being attacked by an owl and lands in a soft nest where three little birds live. Mama Bird adopts her but she has to obey the rules of the house – insects for food, no upside down hanging and no night flights. This is the crucial moment for the little bat. She has no other choice but to accept the rules and suppress all her natural born instincts.

Is Stellaluna brave? My daughter had no hesitation in giving her Yes answer.

I think we can easily identify two levels of the story:

  • The surface level – a story about a baby bat adopted by a family of birds and the hilarious descriptions of her attempts to fit in the family. It is also a very good story to discuss with children about nocturnal versus diurnal animals and about differences between birds and bats.
  • The philosophical level – Is the change of identity necessary? What defines a good friendship? Is friendship possible between bats and birds? What are the consequences of Stellaluna’s promises to Mama Bird? The book is really good material to use when trying to offer a basic philosophy lesson to children.

How can we be so different and feel so much alike? mused Flitter.

And how can we feel so different and be so much alike? wondered Pip.

I think this is quite a mystery, Flap chirped.

I agree, said Stellaluna. But we’re friends.


Stellaluna will reunite with her mother and will return to her real identity and habits. It is interesting for children and adults too to see how the character develops and how all the episodes initiate her from a clumsy, hungry and disoriented bat to an integrated element in her community. Stellaluna herself understands the importance of accepting who you really are and feels safe and happy going back home.




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