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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #70
October 22, 2008

Masters of the Night

Stellaluna + A Bat Education

Stellaluna is a perfect picture book for introducing young children to the world of bats.  Stellaluna, a baby Fruit Bat, is separated from her mother one night and lands in a bird nest.  The beautiful and heart-warming story brings Stellaluna's plight to life as she struggles to live among birds.  Mama bird demands that Stellaluna stop hanging by her feet, stop making faces when she eats bugs, and work harder at gracefully landing on a branch. Poor Stellaluna just can't seem to fit in!  One day, after a long flight, exhausted Stellaluna has to land, and is greeted by another animal.  A bat!  As Stellaluna explains how she was separated from her mother, another bat cries with joy --  it's Stellaluna's mother!  When Stellaluna brings her bat mom to meet her adoptive family, one of the birds ask "How can we be so different and feel so much alike?" our kids got the message about how real friends accept -- and celebrate -- each other for their differences. A universal concept that's far from batty!

After exploring the realistic drawings in Stellaluna, our kids were interested in learning more about those night-flying mammals famous over Halloween season.  At our local Science Center, we broadened their bat bandwidth by taking in a fun and educational exhibit about these masters of the night.  Upon entry, we donned 3-D glasses to view paintings of six different bat species that seemed to leap out at us. Giant colorful photos of bats in all their glory (sipping nectar from mid-air, catching bugs, and eating fruit) brought us in for a closer look.  Our daughter was wooed by a series of bronze bat busts, enlarged to the size of human skulls, for kids to feel and get a sense of bat anatomy. Our son loved donning a pair of over-sized ears (think Dumbo!) to explore how intensely bats can hear, and cocked his head at barely-audible sounds.  Both kids loved the echo chamber, where they were actually encouraged to scream, and then count the seconds between each echo to investigate echolocation.  Our daughter's favorite species of the day was a Golden-crowned Fruit bat, and our son thought the vampire bat who drinks blood "but only a little and not people blood," was just too cool.  Our kids emerged with a lot less fear of, and a lot more insight into, these much myth-understood creatures of the night.

 
Film Title: Stellaluna
Directed By: Jannell Cannonn
1993, Rated U, picture book


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this book:

  • Illustrations Pull Kids In:  The illustrations are both beautiful, and scientifically realistic, giving kids a detailed understanding of fruit bats.  When came as a pleasant surprise, was how well the author/illustrator made Stellaluna emotionally available.  For example, when Mother Bird forced Stellaluna to eat a bug (fruit bats thrive on -- you guessed it -- fruit, not insects), our daughter easily identified the expression on Stellaluna's face as the same one she makes when we force her to eat "yucky" food.
  • Why It's Worth It: Beautiful illustrations bring the world of bats to children of all ages. These overlooked animals get their chance to show the world they can be cute too!  Be sure to explore the scientific illustrations at the end of the book -- our kids were just as interested in those bat tidbits.
  • Happy Endings:  The owl attack may frighten younger children, as might Stellaluna's separation from her mother.  Don't worry -- Stellaluna is re-united with her bat mother by the end of the book.  This is really a story about being different and being accepted by your friends for whomever you are, even if you can't hang by your feet!
  • Older Kids Will Love Kenneth Oppel's Series:    Our 6th grade son went batty over Kenneth Oppel's Silverwing series, chapter books about bat characters that are sophisticated enough to keep them turning the pages.  In one fell swoop, he finished the entire series, which consists of 4 books:  Silverwing, Sunwing, Firewing and Darkwing.  Highly recommended!
  • Further Viewing: Scholastic's DVD on Stellaluna is sweet. And, of course there are the Batman movies!

Our Tips for talking with your kids about this book:

  • Friendship Savvy:  Ask your kids if they have friends who they love that are different than they are.  Sometimes, little kids start little -- different food or clothing tastes.  A little patience will yield a lot of awareness, especially when you bring it closer to home.  Perhaps your child has a sibling, or a parent, who handles emotional situations differently than they do.  Thanks, Stellaluna!
  •  Bat Savvy:  Stellaluna is a fruit bat, but there are many different bat species out there.  Take a moment to look at all the great bat sites to educate kids about bats.  See our KOTC Kernels section for some of those links.


 

Visiting A Bat Exhibit or Learning More About Bats At Home

Age Recommendation: Pre-School and up

Time Recommendation:  One hour

 



 Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:


Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:
  • Anywhere: Google your city + bats + zoo. Check any nearby smaller animal parks, too.
  • Boston: If you’re looking for a bat exhibit in Boston this fall, you’ll need to head to either the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston’s historic Franklin Park or the Stone Zoo in Stoneham to peek at bats immersed in various bird and mammal exhibits. Either trip is a fun family outing, especially on a brilliant autumn day.
  • New York: Don't miss the last weekend of Halloween tradition at the Bronx Zoo's BOO AT THE ZOO celebration October 25th & 26th.  It is a weekend  filled with magic shows, costume parades, hayrides and visits with the zoo's bats, cats and other creepy critters.  Find your way to the World of Darkness  from 11-3 and  brush up on your bat facts!  The Bronx Zoo has 5 species of fruit bats including "Buffy"who was born at the Bronx Zoo in July. To learn more about Buffy's early days at the Health Center go to Mongabay.com.  If you need help turning around a bat's reputation in your home, check out this great article by Kids Go Wild of the The Wildlife Conservation Society about the bats at the Bronx Zoo http://www.kidsgowild.com/wildlifenews.
  • San Francisco: Go batty! There are fabulous places to spot bats on either side of the Bay, either at the brand-new, incredible California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park, or at the Oakland Zoo. Both the Academy and the Oakland Zoo have Halloween celebrations that will include chances to see bats (and creepy crawlies) up close.

 
Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.



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