The folks at Living Books continue to find fresh and original ways to translate print classics to CD-ROM. Their latest project, Stellaluna (ages 3-7), takes Janell Cannon’s wonderful story of a spunky little fruit bat and turns it into a enchanting multimedia production. Stellaluna, separated from her mom during a nighttime owl attack, finds herself nesting with a family of birds. She does her best to adopt bird-like behavior – eating bugs, sleeping at night, and not hanging from her feet – until she is reunited with her mom. The message is simple: we may be different on the outside, but we’re all pretty much the same on the inside. Friendship and respect are the dominant themes. What’s new here is that each page of the story has been broken up into segments, or frames. Graphically, this makes for a far more interesting experience than most interactive storybooks that serve up a page at a time. It adds an element of tension to the narrative. Once the segments have been narrated and explored, they are reassembled as a complete page. In addition, at the top of each page there’s an oval window; click on it for a short animation of Stelluna’s mother as she searches for her missing baby. (Kids enjoy the story a good deal more once they know mom’s still alive, and it’s a clever way to add depth to the story.) Beautifully rendered realistic graphics evoke the African landscape, and the narration, music, and songs are all faithful to the tone of the book. The Bat Notes section included in the print version has metamorphosed on the CD-ROM into a Bat Quiz, with three levels of difficulty. Questions like “Do bats use their eyes when they fly?” or “Do all bats sleep through the winter?” take you deeper into the bat world, supplying solid scientific material, often coupled with extremely creepy photos of different kinds of bats which either delight or repel budding naturalists. Stellaluna deserves five stars.
-December 1996, Storybook