Thursday 5 August 2021


Stellarphant by James Foley (Fremantle Press) PB HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978 1 760990732

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Stella wanted to be an astronaut except there was one huge problem: she was an elephant.


James Foley has created an engaging picture book. Stella is fearless and determined. When she is given reasons as to why she can’t be an astronaut she sets out to find the answers. After all, why should you take no for an answer when you can find a yes?


The opening sentence hooks the reader immediately: One ordinary Monday, at 9am precisely, Stella walked into Space Command. Foley’s dialogue effortlessly moves the story along and gives wonderful insight into Stella. ‘But you have sent some animals to space,’ said Stella. ‘Then why not, an elephant?’


 I love that fact that the elephant in the room is an elephant. This is a funny story that cleverly addresses body type discrimination on a deeper level. Brains and self-belief triumph. I laughed out aloud at the man who kept denying Stella’s application and had to defer to his manager and so on and so on. Until they ran out of managers. Adults reading this story to children will love it as a much as the children. An important message is embedded about not needing approval to do something but following through and doing it yourself. Stellarphant delivers on many levels for a variety of ages. The story builds and builds and Foley leaves the last six double spreads to the illustrations to complete the story, so that it is not crowded with words.


Foley’s cartoon-like illustrations bring multiple layers of meaning and humour to the story. The repeat of blah, blah, blah in the illustrations on two double spreads at a turning point in the story add so much more than any words could. The facial expressions and body language of animals showcase their strength and determination. I love how Foley has allowed for the illustrations to show the countdown to heighten the achievement of space flight. The ending is left open and invites the reader to imagine their own animals flying into space. The endpapers are clever. With the opening one showing both humans and animals together on a hall of fame and the last endpaper being factual and showing a true history of animals in space on a hall of fame. This is a picture book with a true hero – Stella -- that has so much depth and fun.

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