Starbird by Sharon King-Chai

Values: Love, Friendship, Empathy, Happiness, Integrity.

Wow! This is a stunning picture book that I cannot imagine any child being able to resist. It is visually and linguistically appealing and has a strong story-line too. The illustrations pop and the Starbird himself glimmers with silver as you turn each page.

The book is written in the style of a folktale (yet is very contemporary and accessible) and tells of the magical Starbird whose song weaves the most beautiful dreams. However, there is a king - King Moon - who decides he must capture the legendary Starbird for his new daughter so that her dreams may forever be wonderful. As Starbird is captured and imprisoned, so his song begins to fade. Seeing this, the daughter releases Starbird into the sky once more. Angered, King Moon chases Starbird around the globe and imprisons him once again in a cage. The end of the story (spoiler!) shows King Moon realising the error of his ways upon seeing both Starbird and his daughter so distraught, and frees him into the skies.

This is a unique and memorable story of freedom, empathy and love. You can easily discuss with children why King Moon wanted to capture Starbird for his daughter and what his motives were. You can also then discuss why he changes his mind by the end of the story. The love he shows his daughter means he will do anything for her, including something that hurts another. This could turn into a really interesting circle time or PSHE discussion.

You could also talk about the wisdom and maturity of the daughter. She displays great empathy for Starbird and realises his pain. She has to work hard to explain this to her father, who only wants the best for her. You could ask children what other books they know where the child teaches the adult some values.

There is also lots of evidence of friendship woven into the plot. Animals around the world hide Starbird from King Moon so he can avoid capture, offering him food and somewhere to shelter. The princess does what is right for Starbird too, despite it meaning she may not have her beautiful dreams any longer.

This is a great picture book to discuss the Values of happiness and joy. What brings Starbird joy? What brings King Moon joy? What brings the princess joy? Do we sometimes have to sacrifice our own happiness for someone else's? Should we always do this? These questions almost tread into Philosophy 4 Children (P4C) territory, so if your school does that then you could link this picture book into one of your sessions.

Furthermore, Starbird is the perfect opportunity to talk about the Value of integrity - being honest and having strong morals - as we see the princess act such as selfless and mature way. This can b quite a tricky Value for younger children, but it isn't out of their reaches with the right texts to support understanding.

Linguistically, this book is imaginative and advanced. Sharon King-Chai does not shy away from ambitious vocabulary and we see words such as: engulfed, befriended, clustered, omnipresent, vowed, retired... I think this only adds to the ways in which you could use this text and I think it also opens it up for older children. These words wouldn't stop me using this text with KS1, but I may check their understanding more frequently; we may even do some drama.

Published this year (2020), I think this book is set to make ripples as families and schools learn of it. I am already planning how I could use it and who I could gift it to. The silver foiled effect of Starbird throughout the book is magical and will appeal to all ages. It is a lovely bedtime story for families too, and there are lots of Values and moral issues to discuss if parents are so inclined. I bought mine from Daunt Books in Oxford and have already read it several times. You can also follow @SharonKingChai on Twitter.

Definitely one for the Values bookshelf! Use the hashtags to identify my reviews of books on this blog that also contain these Values: