Cannon, Janell 1957-

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Janell Cannon


American author and illustrator of picture books.

The following entry presents an overview of Cannon's career through 2005.


Throughout her picture books, Cannon specializes in altering children's perceptions of such ostensibly unlovable members of the animal kingdom as the fruit bat, the cockroach, the python, and the hyena. By using such stereotypically maligned creatures as her primary protagonists, Cannon demystifies the misunderstood animals, turning them into sympathetic heroes for young readers. An author and illustrator, Cannon is best known for her first work, Stellaluna (1993), the tale of a small bat who loses contact with her mother one evening. The winner of numerous awards, this debut picture book has gone on to sell over one million copies and has been adapted into a pop-up book, mobile, audio recording, computer read-along game, puzzle, board game, stuffed animal, and greeting card, among other incarnations. Often casting her lead characters as juveniles searching for identity, Cannon attempts to create a harmony between reader and animal in her picture books, showing that appearance need not be the sole barometer of personal identification in that universal search for self among all youngsters.


Cannon was born on November 3, 1957, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Burton and Nancy Cannon. A self-taught artist, she began experimenting with different forms of artwork throughout elementary and high school. As an adult, she was employed at the Carlsbad Public Library in Carlsbad, California, where she worked as a graphic artist. Cannon often designed summer literary education programs for the library, and it was during her preparation for one program that she became aware of the dearth of informational books about bats for children. As a result, Cannon decided to create her own children's story centered around these misunderstood mammals. After a period of extensive research, Cannon sent her initial sketches for Stellaluna to high- profile literary agent Sandra Dijkstra. In an interview with Teaching Pre K-8 magazine, she joked, "I thought that I'd start at the top and work my way down." To her surprise, Dijkstra responded and offered to represent her. In 1993 Stellaluna was released by Harcourt to largely positive reviews, becoming a New York Times Book Review best-seller and a Book-of- the-Month selection. Her subsequent picture books have also sold strongly and won numerous awards and accolades. Now an activist committed to animal welfare, Cannon lives in Southern California.


In Stellaluna, a baby fruit bat is separated from her mother during an attack by an owl. Stellaluna falls into a nest of baby birds and is quickly accepted into the family. The birds teach the little bat to eat worms instead of fruit, to stay awake all day, and to sleep in the nest instead of hanging upside down from a branch. But despite Stellaluna's willingness to attempt this strange behavior, she is neither comfortable nor very good at being a bird. Stellaluna is soon discovered by a group of fruit bats who recognize her as one of their own and help find her real mother. Her mother teaches Stellaluna to improve the skills— such as finding fruit to eat—that come more naturally to her as a bat. The book concludes with two pages of facts about bats, an addition that critics note reinforces the usefulness of the picture book as an introduction to the subject for younger children. Published two years later, Cannon's next book, Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale (1995), presents the story of an odd animal youngster wishing to learn about life in the big city. A peaceful creature resembling a cat, Trupp leaves his Fuzzhead home in the cliffs, setting out to see the rest of the world. Early in his journey, Trupp meets a crow, and together the two reach the city and struggle to comprehend the fast-paced metropolis. Luckily, a flamboyant, homeless woman befriends Trupp, takes him under her wing, and shows him what life in the city is like. A young python stars in Cannon's 1997 picture book, Verdi. Ready to leave home and tackle the jungle on his own, Verdi vows to never take on the solid green hue of an adult snake. The youngster prefers his own sporty, yellow racing stripes and tears around the trees, afraid that slowing down will make him "lazy, boring [and] green." But when an injury sends Verdi to the sidelines, the maturing serpent learns to appreciate a slower-paced life, discovering many things in the jungle he missed while going at full speed. For readers interested in learning more, the author/illustrator ends her book with a double-page appendix on snakes.

In Crickwing (2000), the title character—named after a run-in with a toad left his wing crooked—is a cockroach who loves to make sculptures out of his food. Unfortunately, other critters continue to steal his creations, leaving Crickwing hungry. The young cockroach decides to take his anger out on some smaller insects, but the leaf-cutter ants instead take him prisoner and intend to give him over to the stronger army ants as a peace offering. After a change of heart by his captors, the clever cockroach comes up with an idea to scare away the threatening band of enemy army ants. Returning to the semi-magical world of Trupp, Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale (2002) creates an ecological adventure around the differences between the human world and the Fuzzhead world. Little Yau desperately wants to learn how to mix medicines like the Wise Ones, but she is simply too clumsy. But when she discovers that Trupp has been poisoned by his exposure to the human world, Yau has to search for the rare thumbfoot leaf to bring her friend out of his coma. Like many of Cannon's previous protagonists, the titular heroine of Pinduli (2004), a striped hyena, must also face issues related to her appearance. Teased by her animal neighbors for her unusual appearance, she tries to change, only to accidentally take on a ghost-like facade that scares her oppressors into confessing that their taunts were born of their own insecurities about their looks.


Cannon has been almost universally praised for her illustrative talent and attention to detail. Critics have lauded how her expressive, layered artwork creates fully realized three-dimensional universes for her animal protagonists. In her review of Stellaluna, Marianne Saccardi has applauded Cannon's lush graphic style, noting that, "the illustrations, done in acrylic and colored pencil, are lovely. Stellaluna will win many hearts as she is seen in full-page illustrations bordered in white opening her mouth wide to receive a proffered grasshopper." Karen Coats has complimented Cannon's skill at balancing text and illustrations, hailing her pictorial display of Stellaluna's momentous fall as "beautifully rendered in a visual dialogue between the full-color full-page illustrations of the book, and the tiny pen-and-ink illustrations that are found as a sort of breach in the border that surrounds the text on the opposite page." However, while Stellaluna has remained Cannon's most critically acclaimed work, her subsequent picture books have been faulted by some reviewers for their sluggish prose and didactic storylines. Discussing the plot of Trupp, Carolyn Phelan has stated that, "[t]he story … rambles rather aimlessly and mixes fantasy and realism in a vaguely disquieting way." Similarly, Janice M. Del Negro has characterized Little Yau as "a well-intentioned but relentlessly purposive fable, replete with extractable eco-themes … The flow of the story is unfortunately choppy, the writing stilted, and the story unfocused, lacking the humor necessary to raise it above the coy. Cannon's pseudo-naturalistic style features fantastical creatures in a photographically realistic landscape … audiences in search of a real story will want to look elsewhere."


Stellaluna (picture book) 1993

Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale (picture book) 1995

Stellaluna: A Pop-Up Book and Mobile (picture book) 1997

Verdi (picture book) 1997

Crickwing (picture book) 2000

Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale (picture book) 2002

Pinduli (picture book) 2004



Chris Sherman (review date 1 April 1993)

SOURCE: Sherman, Chris. Review of Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon. Booklist 89, no. 15 (1 April 1993): 1436.

After Stellaluna and her mother are attacked by an owl, the tiny fruit bat lands headfirst in a bird's nest [in Stellaluna ]. The mother bird allows Stellaluna to stay, as long as Stellaluna doesn't teach the bird babies bad tricks—like hanging upside down from the nest to sleep. Stellaluna wants to be as graceful as the baby birds, but she's graceful only when she's flying. A bat discovers Stellaluna, who's been separated from the birds, sleeping wrong end up. It calls other bats to see this strange little creature, and a very happy Stellaluna is reunited with her mother to learn proper bat behavior. When the birds visit Stellaluna's bat family, the little bat discovers that baby birds are as clumsy at being bats as Stellaluna was at trying to be a bird. Cannon's delightful story is full of gentle humor, and even young children will understand the little bat's need to fit in. Cannon provides good information about bats in the story, amplifying it in two pages of notes at the end of the book. Her full-page colored-pencil-and-acrylic paintings fairly glow: Stellaluna's depiction reflects the starlight and moonlight of the bat's name, and the pictures of the creature hauling herself onto a limb, hanging by her thumbs, and "joy- flying" are truly amusing. The facing pages of text include small, charming ink sketches that show what happens as Stellaluna's mother searches for her baby.

Marianne Saccardi (review date June 1993)

SOURCE: Saccardi, Marianne. Review of Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon. School Library Journal 39, no. 6 (June 1993): 70.

K-Gr. 3—This story of friendship despite differences [Stellaluna ] begins when Stellaluna, a baby fruit bat, and her mother are attacked by an owl. Stellaluna falls from the sky and lands in a nest occupied by three baby birds. Here she learns to eat what they eat, to fly during the day, and to avoid hanging by her feet so that she can remain in the nest with her new friends. But this adopted life is not without its embarrassments, and Stellaluna flies into the night to avoid being seen clumsily trying to land on a branch. A group of fruit bats discovers the exhausted fledgling and she is happily reunited with her mother. While the text is undistinguished and rather didactic, the illustrations, done in acrylic and colored pencil, are lovely. Stellaluna will win many hearts as she is seen in full-page illustrations bordered in white opening her mouth wide to receive a proffered grasshopper; hanging by her feet with her bird friends; or promising Mama Bird that she will behave properly. Young readers will struggle with her as she tries to land on a branch, and rejoice when they see Mother Bat enfold her newly found baby in her wings. And sharp eyes will notice, long before Stellaluna does, that Mother Bat is alive and has been searching for her baby all along. Two pages of notes at the end of the story provide interesting information about bats, and the fruit bat in particular. This very promising debut accords a fictional entry into the world of bats. Use it with Millicent E. Selsam and Joyce Hunt's A First Look at Bats (Walker, 1991).

Karen Coats (essay date 2004)

SOURCE: Coats, Karen. "A Time to Mourn: The Loss of the Mother." In Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children's Literature, pp. 46- 57. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2004.

[In the following excerpt, Coats examines how Cannon's Stellaluna typifies several of the psychoanalytic theories of psychiatrist Jacques Lacan through its presentation of mother-child relationships and self-determined identity.]

Carolyn Phelan (review date 15 April 1995)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale, by Janell Cannon. Booklist 91, no. 16 (15 April 1995): 1505.

Ages5-7 —From the author of Stellaluna (1993) comes the tale of Trupp, a young fuzzhead, a white- furred creature resembling a cat [in Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale ]. Determined to see the world, he leaves his family's cave in the cliffs and makes his way to the city. There he befriends Bernice, a homeless woman who understands him, helps him, and sends him on his way home. Young children may be dis turbed by the scene in which Bernice and Trupp are attacked by a man who then flees when Trupp re veals himself as a talking animal and threatens the man with his claws. Deft and accomplished, the art work includes soft-edge acrylic-and-pencil paintings in full color that fill the pages as well as small black- and-white drawings that decorate the text. The story, though, rambles rather aimlessly and mixes fantasy and realism in a vaguely disquieting way. One pic ture of Trupp wearing clothing and walking along a city street echoes a Garth Williams illustration in Margaret Wise Brown's Three Little Animals, a more satisfying picture book in which wild things come to the city. Readers who adore Cannon's first book may want to see this one, but Trupp is no Stellaluna.

Virginia Opocensky (review date July 1995)

SOURCE: Opocensky, Virginia. Review of Trupp: A Fuzz head Tale, by Janell Cannon. School Library Journal 41, no. 7 (July 1995): 55.

K-Gr. 3—According to the tongue-in-cheek introduction, Trupp [of Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale ] is one of the catlike creatures known as Fuzzheads, peace- loving beasts with white fur and blue eyes. Wonder ing about the larger world, Trupp leaves the red cliffs of home, appropriates the clothes of a scarecrow, and makes friends with Krok, a raven. The pals hop a train into a city, where they meet Bernice, a bag lady. With Trupp and Krok in her laden shopping cart, she trundles off to a safer part of town. After a dangerous encounter, dinner at a restaurant's back door, a bit of philosophy, and a night sleeping in the park, Trupp goes home. The text pales in comparison to the vibrant, full-page acrylic and colored-pencil illustra tions filled with the gritty realism of city streets. Bernice is splendid in layers of clothing, rubber boots, and stocking cap with tooth brushes stuck around the fold—her overturned shopping cart spills forth the story of a life gone sadly awry. Pen-and-ink vignettes on alternate pages decorate and extend the text. While Trupp is an engaging critter, he and his adventure are not quite believable. Bernice is.

VERDI (1997)

Elizabeth Devereaux and Diane Roback (review date 17 February 1997)

SOURCE: Devereaux, Elizabeth, and Diane Roback. Review of Verdi, by Janell Cannon. Publishers Weekly 244, no. 7 (17 February 1997): 219.

Cannon (Stellaluna ) is on a roll, her gift for creating memorable characters and scenes on glorious display in this tale of a feisty python hatchling [Verdi ]. Vowing never to turn "lazy, boring, or green" like the older pythons, Verdi zips through the jungle, launching himself from tree branches in an attempt to outpace the inevitable and keep his bright yellow skin and sporty stripes. His elders fear Verdi's recklessness will be his undoing ("At this rate, he'll be lucky to make it to his first molt," bemoans one) and they watch his antics with alarm—and with a drop of nostalgia for their own glory days. Adulthood eventually catches up with the young hothead, of course, but in a resolution that is both wise and funny, Verdi comes to terms with maturity while maintaining his zest for life ("I may be big and very green, but I'm still me!"). Cannon's finely tempered prose is as exquisite as her luminous artwork. Here, each jewellike vista is marked by careful attention to detail and brilliant use of color—Verdi's jungle world is a symphony of green, from the delicate shade of a newly unfurled fern frond to richer tones of emerald and pine. Sharply focused foreground objects fade into slightly hazy backdrops, giving the acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations an almost three-dimensional depth. As a bonus, the book concludes with a graceful two-page note on snakes. Ages 4-10.

Susan Dove Lempke (review date 15 April 1997)

SOURCE: Lempke, Susan Dove. Review of Verdi, by Janell Cannon. Booklist 93, no. 16 (15 April 1997): 1434.

Ages 5-8—A python baby leaves his mother and enters the tropical world [in Verdi ]. "Grow up big and green," she calls after him, but Verdi much prefers his snazzy yellow skin with stripes, finding the big green snakes boring and sedentary. He determines to keep both his yellow skin and his adventurous, fast-moving lifestyle, and he goes zinging about the rain forest until eventually—"Whippety, whappity, fwip, fwap, WHAM!" During his recovery, Verdi grows to appreciate slowing down enough to notice things, but when a couple of cheeky, young yellow snakes come along, he proves that he can still have fun. The rich greens and shiny yellows of the jacket art are sure to entice youngsters, and Cannon's acrylic-and-pencil illustrations look almost three- dimensional with the blend of plain gray pencil and brightly colored paints. As she did in her very popular Stellaluna (1993), Cannon blends natural science with story, providing a double-page spread of added information on snakes. Even if the pace drags in places, Verdi is both an endearing youngster and an admirable elder.

Nina Lindsay (review date May 1997)

SOURCE: Lindsay, Nina. Review of Verdi, by Janell Cannon. School Library Journal 43, no. 5 (May 1997): 93-4.

Gr. 1-3—Verdi, a python hatchling, is born a splendid, vibrant yellow with zigzagging stripes and is determined not to turn green, as all his folk eventually do [in Verdi ]. His jungle- green elders seem boring and lazy to Verdi, who loves flinging himself from the treetops. He gets himself out of one scrape and into another, until a bad injury sobers him. He comes to enjoy the camouflaging green that eventually creeps over him, but he's still "Verdi"—maybe a little more sedate, but never dull. Cannon's layout and illustrations are similar to those in her popular Stellaluna (Harcourt, 1993), with stunningly realistic and vibrant pictures in acrylic and pencil that feature bright greens and yellows. Each full-page, color illustration faces a white page with text and a black-and-white spot drawing and border. Some double-page spreads provide breaks in the generally well-paced story. Verdi is an easy-to-like character, and the pictures convey his exuberance and carry the story where the text occasionally falters. A page of "Snake Notes" at the end provides background information. A great read-aloud or read-alone.


Publishers Weekly (review date 7 August 2000)

SOURCE: Review of Crickwing, by Janell Cannon. Pub- lishersWeekly 247, no. 32 (7 August 2000): 95.

Tired of being bullied, an artistic cockroach [the titular Crickwing ] with a crooked wing and a penchant for culinary sculpture ("I just like to play with my food") begins picking on creatures even smaller than himself—leafcutter ants—and is taken prisoner by the colony. Crickwing is sentenced to be served up as a peace offering to the army ants, but a few brave rebels have a change of heart and set him free. The grateful (and penitent) cockroach repays their kindness and saves the colony by scaring off the army ants with his best sculpture ever—a giant green anteater made of leaves. The tale ends with Crickwing joining the leafcutters as their chef; the celebration that follows includes flower confetti and dancing (the "six-step," naturally). Cannon (Verdi ) works her picture book magic once again, producing an amusing tale lightly rooted in natural history (notes on cockroaches and ants follow the story). Reeling in her audience with saucy characters and an engaging plot-line, she hooks them with her vibrant visuals. Whether depicting Crickwing creating an edible mouse from a root, leaves and berries, an ocelot peering at him as he hides under a stone or a herd of leaf-cutter ants falling into one his traps, Cannon's illustrations skillfully blur the line between fact and fancy, and add another feather to her well-decorated cap. Ages 6-9.

Connie Fletcher (review date 15 October 2000)

SOURCE: Fletcher, Connie. Review of Crickwing, by Janell Cannon. Booklist 97, no. 4 (15 October 2000): 434.

Ages6-9 —Cannon, who made a bat (Stellaluna) and a snake (Verdi ) appealing, sympathetic characters, works her magic again in [Crickwing, ] this jungle adventure starring a conflicted cockroach and a crew of plucky leaf-cutter ants. Crickwing (his name comes from a near-death experience he had with a toad, which left one of his wings twisted) is a starving artist. He loves to create sculptures with his food, but he's too slow to fend off the sneak attacks of rain forest predators who swipe his work. Feeling isolated, despised, and hungry, he takes out his anger on the busy, successful leaf-cutter ants, who capture Crickwing, intending to offer him to the voracious army ants. After his captors take pity on him at the last moment, Crickwing joins the leaf-cutters in an ingenious ruse to rout the army ants. Cannon's artwork, in acrylics and pencil, is as bright as a photo flash, magnifying the actions of the tiny denizens of the world under the rain forest canopy. It also captures quick movements: action shown in full-page color paintings is continued and forwarded in a black-and-white illustration on the facing page. It's a gripping story that also works as an inspiring lesson in compassion. Cannon concludes with "Cockroach Notes" and "Ant Notes."

Barbara Buckley (review date November 2000)

SOURCE: Buckley, Barbara. Review of Crickwing, by Janell Cannon. School Library Journal 46, no. 11 (November 2000): 110-11.

Gr. 1-4 —In her latest picture-book creation [Crickwing ], Cannon introduces Crickwing, a cockroach with a wounded wing. This basically sweet-natured creature becomes a bit of a bully when he discovers how easy it is to play tricks on a colony of worker ants. When faced with outside danger, however, he uses his creative talents to help his industrious friends. The most striking aspect of the book is the acrylic and Prismacolor-pencil artwork. As with Stellaluna (1993) and Verdi (1999, both Harcourt), Cannon's drawings are exacting-a true marriage of fact and fiction. The cockroaches and ants are precise enough for an entomology textbook, while the lush colors and beautifully realized facial expressions are so reader friendly that even very young children will be enchanted. Unfortunately, the text falls short in comparison. The story is too wordy and somewhat stilted, making it difficult to use as a read-aloud. For older students, the scientific explanations of various species of cockroaches throughout the world may be helpful, but will diminish the storybook quality of the book.

Cyndi Giorgis and Nancy J. Johnson (review date May 2001)

SOURCE: Giorgis, Cyndi, and Nancy J. Johnson. Review of Crickwing, by Janell Cannon. ReadingTeacher 54, no. 8 (May 2001): 831.

Crickwing, an artistic cockroach who acquired his name after a close call with a hungry toad, creates tantalizing culinary sculptures that are devoured by larger forest creatures [in Crickwing ]. In retaliation, Crickwing begins to antagonize smaller creatures— the leafcutter ants. Eventually he is taken prisoner by the ants and their queen who exclaims, "Truss him up like the fat turkey he is and ship him out!" In good conscience, the leafcutter ants release Crickwing even though they are threatened with serious danger. Recognizing their kindness and their dilemma, Crickwing assists them by creating a believable anteater sculpture that terrifies the army ants and forces them to retreat. Janell Cannon's amusing tale and acrylic illustrations supply both witty characters and viable solutions.


Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton (review date 29 July 2002)

SOURCE: Roback, Diane, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton. Review of Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale, by Janell Cannon. Publishers Weekly 249, no. 30 (29 July 2002): 71.

Cannon (Stellaluna ) returns to the land of the Fuzzheads for this tale with an ecological message [Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale ]. Little Yau longs to become sufficiently accomplished at mixing plants into healing medicines that the Wise Ones, the eldest Fuzz-heads, will invite her to the mountains to teach her "the great secrets." After bungling her exam in the medicine cave, Yau goes in search of her best friend, Trupp, who encountered the human world in the inaugural volume about the Fuzzheads and has been away a long time. She finds him unconscious, and summons the Wise Ones. Cannon paints the triumvirate perched on the "Great Arch," a terra cotta stone that ares against a mystical blue sky, overlooking the mountains. The arid landscape calls to mind breathtaking vistas such as the Grand Canyon or Sedona, a worthy perch for these spiritual leaders. The Wise Ones help her determine that he has fallen ill to "poison from the human garden." Only the thumbfoot leaf will cure the ailing young patient, but when Yau (camouflaged in human garb) goes to retrieve the plant, she discovers human developments in place of the thumbfoot's usual habitat. These paintings pale when compared to the Fuzzheads' homeland, and the message here tends to overshadow the story. But Trupp 's fans will likely enjoy seeing his further adventures through the eyes of his best buddy. Ages 5-8.

Kirkus Reviews (review date 15 August 2002)

SOURCE: Review of Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale, by Janell Cannon. KirkusReviews 70, no. 16 (15 August 2002): 1220.

Cannon revisits the reclusive, catlike Fuzzheads introduced in Trupp (1999), for an offbeat rite-of-passage tale [Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale ]. When apprentice herbalist Yau finds her errant friend Trupp unconscious, victim of a human poison, she accompanies Wise Ones Rowl, Rup, and Eermp into human territory in search of the rare vine that provides the only cure. As before, though Fuzzheads look like crosses between pumas and polar bears in Cannon's liquidly realistic paintings, once they don clothing and stand on two legs, the people they meet don't seem to notice that they're different. Several nerve-wracking encounters later, Yau finds the vine, rushes it back in time to save Trupp, and earns an invitation from the Wise Ones to move on to the next level of study. As is her wont, Cannon pairs a wordy but uncomplicated adventure to whimsical, technically accomplished art—giving readers of both simple and sophisticated taste something to appreciate. (Picture book. 7-9)

Carolyn Phelan (review date 15 September 2002)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of LittleYau:AFuzz-headTale, by Janell Cannon. Booklist 99, no. 2 (15 September 2002): 238.

K-Gr.2 —Fuzzheads, white, catlike creatures that can walk either upright or on all fours, live in their own quasi-Indian society in an arid landscape resembling the American Southwest. In this adventure [Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale ], little Yau discovers her friend Trupp unconscious and near death. When the healer determines that thumbfoot vine is needed to cure Trupp, Yau ventures into a nearby "human village" and, disguised in clothing, searches for the plant. As in the previous Fuzzhead story, Trupp (1995), the artwork is more engaging than the rather long, predictable story. Both the large paintings and the small ink drawings show admirable precision and attention to detail. The subtle grades of colors, the solid draftsmanship under the soft edges, and the sense of drama combine to give the larger pictures an appealing quality quite apart from the more obvious wide-eyed, fuzzy-animal appeal of the characters.

Janice M. Del Negro (review date November 2002)

SOURCE: Del Negro, Janice M. Review of Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale, by Janell Cannon. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 56, no. 3 (November 2002): 100-01.

Little Yau is a Fuzzhead, a race of large catlike creatures that exist in secret alongside humankind [in Little Yau: A Fuzzhead Tale ]. As an apprentice healer, Little Yau wants nothing more than to be taken by the Wise Ones to the mountains to learn the great secrets; when she fails a test of her abilities, she turns for sympathy to her friend, Trupp (from Trupp, ). She finds him unconscious, poisoned from something in a human garden. The Wise Ones recommend a healing herb only to be found in the human world, so the Fuzzheads disguise themselves as people and search among them for the remedy; after locating it and thereby saving her friend, Yau is then invited to the Mountains with Wise Ones, "ready to follow her wildest dreams." This is a well-intentioned but relentlessly purposive fable, replete with extractable eco-themes—the danger of overdevelopment, the loss of healing plants, the need for harmony among species—all of which get a quick glance in this combination of cautionary and rite-of-passage tale. The flow of the story is unfortunately choppy, the writing stilted, and the story unfocused, lacking the humor necessary to raise it above the coy. Cannon's pseudo-naturalistic style features fantastical creatures in a photographically realistic landscape: the acrylic and pencil illustrations evoke a southwest desert locale populated by blue-eyed, upright cat-creatures; the human environment ranges from urban squalid to bare campgrounds littered with cigarette butts. The art does provide some humor (Fuzzheads dressed in human clothes are taken for human despite their furry faces and paws/claws) that somewhat lightens the precious tone. This is most suitable for hardcore aficionados of Cannon's created world; audiences in search of real story will want to look elsewhere.

PINDULI (2004)

Publishers Weekly (review date 2 August 2004)

SOURCE: Review of Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. Publishers Weekly 251, no. 31 (2 August 2004): 69.

Cannon (Stellaluna ) applies her familiar formula to the animals of the African savanna in [Pinduli, ] this rambling tale of a striped hyena who learns about how cruel insults can be. Once again, Cannon combines an anthropomorphic story with factual endnotes about the wildlife, and the engaging artwork succeeds in making an unappealing creature sympathetic. The illustrations mix Audubon verisimilitude with Disney-like sentimentality. When Dog, Lion and Zebra insult young Pinduli, her ears droop as if she were a sad-eyed, lovable cartoon rabbit; and when the animals think dust-covered Pinduli is a ghost, their suddenly yellow eyes bulge like startled characters in a Halloween movie. The text often grows ponderous ("Please spare us your wrath!," says Lion to the ghost, "I, too, have spread discord, by insulting a young hyena's mane"), and the plot mushrooms in complexity as readers learn that each animal has insulted Pinduli because they were insulted themselves. (With a nod to Stellaluna, Fennac Fox explains, "I guess I was having a bad day. Serval Cat said I looked like a little fuzzy bat without wings.") By the time the insults multiply and apologies go around, the message has been underscored a dozen times. Nonetheless, this disappointingly didactic effort may well appeal to Cannon fans. Ages 5- 8.

Christine M. Heppermann (review date September-October 2004)

SOURCE: Heppermann, Christine M. Review of Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. Horn Book Magazine 80, no. 5 (September-October 2004): 565.

As in her most popular picture book, Stellaluna, Cannon here demonstrates her knack for illustrations that are both expressive and faithful to nature. Her title character [in Pinduli ] is a young female hyena whose identifying characteristics—the large ears, the bristly striped fur—bring on rude comments from other animals. Cannon's luminescent acrylic and pencil art showcases the shimmering sky and parched golden terrain of the East African savanna and the diversity of its inhabitants. Readers can simultaneously follow the increasingly self-conscious Pinduli's adventures and, on the opposite side of each spread, watch her mother's sometimes comical attempts (rendered in black-and-white ink) to find her. Unfortunately, the story starts to sag under the weight of its message once it is revealed that the reason the wild dog, lion, and zebra made fun of Pinduli is that they themselves had been hurt by similar taunts. Still, it's worth making it through to the informative back matter to learn about the different species of hyenas and about the probable evolutionary advantages of zebra's "garish" stripes and vulture's "moonscape" (i.e., bald) head.

Mary N. Oluonye (review date October 2004)

SOURCE: Oluonye, Mary N. Review of Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. School Library Journal 50, no. 10 (October 2004): 110.

PreS-Gr. 3—After sleeping through the hot East African afternoon, it is time for Mama Hyena and her child to go hunting [in Pinduli ]. Pinduli promises to stay close by, but then trots off. She comes across a pack of wild dogs, a lion, and a zebra, and all tease her about her looks. She rolls in the dirt until her striped coat is a pallid gray and her ears are pinned back. The animals think that she is a "ghost" that has come for them. All of the creatures then confess that they teased the young hyena because another animal had made fun of them. The "ghost" understands and advises them to "find your tormentors and make peace.… And always leave a bit of every meal as an offering." By story's end, the animals have reconciled, and with all the food offerings left, Pinduli and her mother never have to scrounge around looking for meals. The animals' expressions and antics are hilarious and endearing; Cannon has pulled off quite a feat in creating a cuddly hyena protagonist. This touching book about personal growth and self- acceptance gently demonstrates how the actions of one can have far- reaching effects on many others. An appealing and worthwhile purchase.

Nancy Keating (review date April-May 2005)

SOURCE: Keating, Nancy. Review of Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. Library Media Connection 23, no. 7 (April-May 2005): 72.

K-5—The story of Pinduli is told like a folktale. The insults Pinduli receives from other animals she encounters leads her to disguise herself, and then, outsmart them into always providing food offerings or left-overs for her. Prior to this, hyenas always had to forge for their own food. Through the insults, readers learn the description of the hyena. This is an enjoyable story of an animal that is usually not very popular, and therefore, is rarely the main character of a book. Pinduli and her mother are presented as likeable creatures, rather than the usual adverse role that hyenas play in many stories. After the story, readers can meet the Hyena Family, where there are several pages that describe the different kinds of hyenas. More pages discuss characteristics of the hyena and other animals that share these characteristics. This picture book is great to use for science lessons about animals with younger children. The information contained in the book, however, would make it of interest to older children. The vocabulary is challenging, making this a book to be shared with an adult. Recommended.

Connect (review date November-December 2005)

SOURCE: Review of Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. Connect 19, no. 2 (November-December 2005): 20.

Pinduli, by Janell Cannon (Harcourt, 2004), is a playful, fictional tale that could be employed in a classroom in several ways. First, as an example of physical and behavioral adaptations over time in several species; other animals make fun of how Pinduli, a young, striped hyena looks, compared to the way they themselves look. Second, as a fine example of storytelling and as an enrichment to a study of east Africa. And third, as a story through which themes like teasing, bullying, or low self-esteem can be addressed. Cannon includes important information and ideas about animal adaptations in the back of the book, separate from the story. This book works well with five-through ten-year-olds.



Cannon, Janell, and Katherine Pierpont. "Janell Cannon: Mysteries of the Misunderstood." Teaching Pre K-8 35, no. 7 (April 2005): 42-5.

Cannon discusses her writing career, her body of work, and her often "misunderstood" animal protagonists.

Trierweiler, Hannah. "Teaching with … Janell Cannon." Instructor 114, no. 8 (May-June 2005): 49-50.

Proposes several classroom activities for introducing young readers to Cannon's picture books.

Wardell, Sandy. Review of Crickwing, by Janell Cannon. American Biology Teacher 65, no. 1 (January 2003): 75.

Evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Crickwing.

Additional coverage of Cannon's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Ed. 2; and Something about the Author, Vols. 78, 128.