Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
“The Sun and the Starlings” by Barbara Hill is a lighthearted, heartwarming little tale about Queenie, the queen of a little kingdom in the forest, as she is forced to leave the relative comfort of her throne to find the source of the famine that's affecting hers and neighboring kingdoms. Intended for ages 9+, the book shines in its playful and fun tone. There is nothing—not famine, not drought, not the potential for mutiny, not even fear of death—that is portrayed as too severe or too serious. This is a cute, fun little adventure story through and through.
Queenie is amazing as a royal who is struggling to do her best in her position. Being “the leader” doesn't necessarily guarantee that everyone listens to you and you can get and do whatever you want. Queenie struggles with that first hand. Despite being the queen, she isn't a tyrant. She is open to the ideas of others and democratic in that sense. This allows her jester (and another major character), Chucklegorgon, to have a lot of autonomy. This even allows him the freedom and time to raise and train racing snails. You heard that right: RACING SNAILS! And apparently these racing snails are prized in the Little Kingdom.
Chucklegorgon also seems to be one of the court members who can quite literally tell the queen “No, I don't like that” or “No, I don't feel like doing that.” For example, he refuses to relinquish an important secret to Queenie, choosing instead to entertain her with songs and jokes.
Along with Chucklegorgon and Queenie, we also meet a cute, charming giant named Tumblehorn and his talking birds, all of whom are just so much fun to read about.
They are pitted up against the villainous Gozgork, an evil sorcerer with the ability to create illusions and affect the environment. Gozgork feeds on the fear and anxiety he causes people. How can Queenie and the others overcome him?
Oh, did we mention there's a kind of cavalry that rides SPIDERS?!
This book has so much charm and so much character. It's made even more spectacular by the accompanying music and sound that comes with the audio version of this book. That's not even mentioning the beautiful illustrations.
Check out this book!