Monday, 26 September 2011

Book Recommendation: Stellaluna

Preface:  I love storybooks.  Not exactly a shocker given my calling as an elementary teacher.  I'm a sucker for a good story and/or great illustrations (the two don't always go together).  I frequently get asked to recommend good books to parents.  So every so often I'll share one of my favourites, as well as some ideas for things to think and talk about when you engage in the book with (or without!)your child.

One of my favourite storybooks is Janelle Cannon's Stellaluna. In Stellaluna a baby fruit bat is separated from her mother following an owl attack and is adopted by a family of baby birds.  The book follows Stellaluna as she struggles to fit in with her new bird family and ultimately learns some lessons about friendship and about being yourself.

The illustrations in the book are beautiful and very realistic with only the lightest anthropomorphic touch. Although the book is a fictional story it includes lots of information about the habits and habitat of fruit bats and it has an afterword which provides a little more background.  The language of the book is rich, right from the opening "In a warm and sultry forest far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby."

I started reading this book to my daughter when she was about 3 years old, and she enjoyed the story but it was a little long for her attention span, so I'd really say it's probably for 4 years and up if you're reading it to them and about a grade 2 or 3 reading level if they're going to read it on their own. 

Some things to think about as you read Stellaluna together:
  • Before you read, talk about what you already know about bats and how you feel about them. (ie. are they spooky? cute?)  Read the story, then see if you still feel the same way.
  • What other stories does Stellaluna remind you of? How are they similar? (Hint: for me, The Ugly Duckling immediately springs to mind.  But kids often find all sorts of connections, including to TV shows or computer games).
  • Talk about fiction and non-fiction, then try to decide together which category this story belongs in and why you feel that way.
  • Hop on the Internet and search for some photos of fruit bats.  Look at how they compare to the illustrations in the book.

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