By James Foley
Reviewed by Mia Macrossan
James Foley makes picture books, middle-grade novels and comics for kids. He is the author/illustrator of the popular My Dead Bunny, In the Lion, and The Last Viking. Many of his titles have won honours, including children’s choice awards, and shortlisting in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards. His books are noted for their humour, understanding of children and witty illustrations.
Stellarphant has all of these ingredients but is a little more serious in tone. Stella is an elephant and is eager to become an astronaut. Space Command keeps coming up with objections as to why she can’t be one – she’s an elephant, we don’t have a space suit your size, she needs to complete basic training, they don’t have rockets strong enough to lift her into space and so on. Stella maintains her good humour throughout and solves each problem in her own way using a bunch of animal friends to help her. This motley assortment of animals become her crew in a final triumphant launch into space proving that you can do anything providing you put your mind to it and find some friends to help you.
Foley’s illustrations are expressive, bold and full of detail. He deftly demonstrates the size and scale of Stella compared to ordinary humans and other animals. In a way her size is an indication of her determination and inner strength which propels her to achieving her goal as well as making the point that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
The outstanding back endpapers showcase all the real animals, including fertilised chicken eggs, that have become astronauts (although I did wonder how many of them survived the flight).