Stellaluna is a charming picture book, written and illustrated by Janell Cannon, about a baby fruit bat who gets separated from her mother and ends up in a nest of friendly baby birds. It is a children's classic which my children and I love, particularly for the humorous moments and stunning illustrations.
This is a touching story about the friendship which develops between the bat and the birds, despite their differences. Desperately wanting to fit in, the baby bat, Stellaluna, learns to eat bugs "even though they tasted awful", stay awake during the day and sleep in the nest rather than hanging upside down. "Stellaluna behaved as a good bird should".
Eventually she is reunited with her mother and realises that it is normal for fruit bats to hang upside down, fly at night and eat fruit - "the best food in the world". She goes to find her friends, the birds, to show them her new discoveries. The unlikely friends wonder "How can we be so different and feel so much alike?". They conclude that it is a mystery, "but we're friends. And that's a fact."
Bats are often thought of as creepy animals but the beautiful illustrations in this book will help to dispel this myth and change your child's opinions of bats forever.
As well as simply being an endearing story to read with your children, this book is also perfect for exploring other avenues of learning. Below are a few ideas which my children and I enjoyed.
I had read the book quite a number of times to my children and I must admit I never looked at the tiny pencil drawings above each page of text until they were pointed out to me. These drawings tell the story from the point of view of Stellaluna’s mother. Ask your child to tell the mother's story in their own words, based on these pictures.
Stellaluna provides a couple of good examples of figurative language, where you describe something by comparing it with something else:
Point these out to your child as you read and see if they can think of other examples of similes and onomatopoeia.
Try asking your child some of the following questions to start a discussion on the themes of fitting in, tolerance and friendship. This would be particularly useful if you know your child has encountered these issues already in their own lives.
Bats are fascinating creatures and provide lots of useful talking points with your child. They are nocturnal animals (what other nocturnal animals can you name?), the only flying mammals (what are mammals?) and they use sonar, or echolocation, to fly at night (what is sonar?).
If you want to find out more about bats, there are a couple of additional pages at the end of Stellaluna containing interesting facts about bats. We supplemented this with the excellent Usborne Beginners book on Bats, which is targeted towards younger readers. A lot of information is covered with large, simple text including the anatomy of a bat, how bats find their way in the dark, what bats eat and the sinister vampire bat.
Another great book for young readers with interesting facts and fabulous photographs is the book on Bats from National Geographic Readers.
Once you've read these books your child will have all the answers for the next activity … doing a bat crossword.
There are a couple of fun bat crosswords on the Bat Conservation International's website. The easier crossword was a surprise hit with my elder child, who is a beginner reader. It provided great practice for his reading and writing skills and introduced him to the concept of crosswords and how they work. I loved the fact that the answers were printed randomly at the side of the page to make the crossword easier for him to do independently.
For older children there is also a slightly harder crossword.
Our favourite videos which we found on-line were:
There is also a fun song and animated video about echolocation on the Bat Conservation International's website.
So go ahead and let Stellaluna open up the world of bats for you and your children!
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