The Queen of the Birds by Karine Polwart & Kate Leiper

The Queen of the Birds is a beautifully illustrated picture book which retells an old folktale and introduces readers to a wide variety of birds. The birds include hoopoes, pheasants, curlews, flamingoes, an eagle and a wren who compete to choose a new king in a story that highlights teamwork and quick thinking.

The Story: The Kingdom of Birds is in a mess after a storm so the birds decide to elect a king to sort it out. After some discussion the eagle suggests that whichever bird can fly the highest will be crowned king. It’s a tough race that leads to an unexpected winner!

The arrogant eagle dominates the story which follows the birds as they compete to fly the highest. It’s a very mismatched contest as he hasn’t taken into consideration the birds that can’t fly or the birds that need their energy for singing. But he also hasn’t considered the idea that Jenny Wren, a tiny bird, with a big idea could also be a strong contender.

The Queen of the Birds has an easy to read lyrical text which uses alliteration, rhyme, consonance and different sized fonts to give it a musical quality. The words are woven around Kate Leiper’s vibrant illustrations which include lots of white background space.

A ‘Search and Find’ spread at the end of the book shows cameos of all the birds with their names. Readers are encouraged to spot the birds in the story – it’s a great way to learn bird names. There were a couple that we’d never heard of – a Rose Breasted Grosbeak and a White Crested Laughing Thrush.

The Queen of the Birds is a fabulous book to read in a Key Stage One classroom. There are so many wonderful uses of language to talk about and it would also be a great book to include in a topic on birds or climate crisis.

Author: Karine Polwart / Illustrator: Kate Leiper

Thank you to Birlinn Books for sending a review copy of this beautiful picture book.

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