Sunday, August 11, 2019

Read, You Must: Star Wars Myths & Fables

Incredible cover art by Grant Griffin
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

That introduction to the first Star Wars movie in 1977 (and each one since) was always meant to sound a lot like the classic fairy tale beginning "Once, upon a time..."

Star Wars always has been more like a fairy tale in space than pure science fiction. A new middle grade book from Disney/Lucasfilm Press takes that idea even further. 

Feels like one of these!
Imagine you're a kid in the Star Wars galaxy - what would your bedtime stories be like? What kind of stories did Luke Skywalker grow up with? Or after the Empire collapsed, what stories do those fathier stable kids in The Last Jedi hear, read and share?

Star Wars: Myths & Fables presents a 172 page collection of short stories of daring adventures and lessons learned. Packaged very much like an old-fashioned edition of children's stories, Myths & Fables presents nine exciting inspirational and cautionary tales in an entertaining and age-appropriate way for young readers.

Unlike most Star Wars books, this is written and presented as "In-Universe", as though it's actually a book of folklore you could buy on Coruscant or Naboo for a child. The stories are set in the Star Wars galaxy we know, but talk about it as though it's far in the past. They feel very much like they've been told many times, passed down to younger generations, and author George Mann has just finally written them down. Details are sketchy and descriptions are exaggerated, but readers will enjoy separating the likely facts from the creative embellishments.

One character, known only as the "Dark Wraith", haunts people with his flashing red arm and horrible rasping breath. We know this is probably about Darth Vader & his red lightsaber, but the teller of the tale doesn't know that name or even what a lightsaber is.

While some of the stories are perfect for "bedtime stories", others may be a little bit scary at times. Such is the nature of fairy tales, and author Mann does not shy away from this. In fact some of the stories like "The Witch & the Wookiee" feel like they come straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales, just adapted into the Star Wars galaxy. Even the language Mann uses feels quite old-fashioned at times with many vocabulary-building words that may be a good challenge younger readers (or their parents!).

Like many early 20th century books for kids, the illustrations are sparse but beautiful. Each story has one incredible painting by Grant Griffin. Some of them are stunning and every one of them could be a framed poster in any Star Wars fan's room.

The title is a little odd as there really aren't any fables here (stories that typically have animals as the main characters) and a more appropriate title would've been Myths & Legends, or even "Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away" but that title has already been used for a different collection of short stories.

While a few of the stories are connected to each other really they could be read in any order. At least two of the stories take place on Batuu, which connect them to the events and locations of Disney Parks' new Galaxy's Edge Star Wars attractions. Visitors to the parks can come already knowing a bit about Black Spire Outpost and some of the spots within the locale.

This is a new kind of Star Wars book, and hopefully we'll see more in the future. In fact that may be the only disappointment in this book - it leaves the reader wanting more stories and more of the fantastic paintings. Highly recommended!

(Publisher's Recommendation: Ages 8+)

While not exactly the same thing, readers who enjoy Myths & Fables will probably also like The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu, and also the aforementioned collection of short stories Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens vol 1 by Landry Q Walker.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

C-3PO Does Not Like Sand, But You'll Probably Like This Book!

What happens when C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8 get sent on secret mission to Tatooine for the Resistance? A LOT, apparently!

As their mission is simply to "scan the planet", they stroll and roll across the desert encountering nearly everything you can remember from past adventures on Tatooine. Creatures, aliens, racers and more are among the fun surprises on each turn of the 64 pages.

Poor C-3PO grows more and more annoyed at every step with the heat, the two other droids, and especially the sand getting in all of his inner-workings.

Yes, like his creator Anakin Skywalker, C-3PO Does NOT Like Sand!

This simple adventure story seems to be set after the events of The Last Jedi, based on the fact BB-8 is there and R2-D2 is back with them from his adventure with Rey.

Anakin didn't care much for sand either!
Since Disney-Lucasfilm Press began creating Star Wars picture books they have been pretty wildly different from each other. From the beautifully painted BB-8 On The Run, to the adorable Chewie & the Porgs to the dark-yet-very-silly Are You Scared, Darth Vader?, there are now a small variety of stories to choose from for bedtime or anytime reading for very young Star Wars fans.

C-3PO Does Not Like Sand! feels more like a book from the 1970's than 2019 and creates a wonderful nostalgic feeling for adults reading it.

The story by Caitlin Kennedy and illustrations by Brian Kesinger give it a look and feel almost like a Dr. Seuss book, but also has a lot in common with classic Sesame Street Grover books like The Monster at the End of This Book.

Even more though, this book is a delight for fans of the 80's Droids cartoon TV series. It's very much the kind of misadventure seen regularly on that show, with a similar sense of humour.

The spine is the only place that does this but the book is identified there as a "Droid Tales" book. Let's hope there's many more Droid Tales to come, and hopefully with K-2SO or L3-37!
For those of us who grew up on Star Wars, C-3PO Does Not Like Sand! is a lot of fun to read with younglings, or just to enjoy ourselves.

(Publisher's Recommendation: 4 - 8 years)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Read, You Must: Alien Archive

New from Disney - Lucasfilm Press is Star Wars: Alien Archive (A Guide to the Species of the Galaxy), an in-universe guide to nearly every alien species, from gigantic creatures like Rancors and Krayt Dragons to Jawas, Porgs, Tookas and well, whatever Yoda is!

Page after page of colourful illustrations, facts, and notable examples of each alien species fill this oversized 157 page hardcover. Basically anything that isn't a human and isn't a droid is probably covered in here somewhere.

The book is written in-universe, meaning the "author" is Xoddam Lothipp, Deputy Director of something called the "Graf Archive". The contents are presented as though this journal archive was discovered within the Star Wars galaxy.

Alien Archive has a very similar feel to 2016's Star Wars: Galactic Maps and works well as a companion to that book. Like in Galactic Maps, the all-new illustrations have an old-fashioned "wood cut" feel, once again by Tim McDonagh. It also covers some of the same ground as 2016's Aliens of the Galaxy, but it goes into far more depth and is about four times as long!
Galactic Maps (2016)

If you don't know an Ewok from an Ugnaught, is the book for you. Alien Archive is impressively comprehensive, including creatures and aliens from of course the Star Wars movies (as recent as Solo) as well as those only seen in The Clone Wars and Rebels

A treat for the die-hard fans is also discovering creatures only seen in novels, comics, games or even from the Ewok adventure TV specials. 

For most of the species presented there are notable examples given, hints as to where the reader may have seen this creature before. It would be nice to have some sort of footnotes to help readers find some of the more obscure species on screen or wherever they're from. However, since this book is in-universe, it doesn't really acknowledge that Star Wars IS a bunch of movies, TV shows and more. As far as the author is concerned, this is all real!

Longtime fans and brand-new fans of any age will find plenty to discover and enjoy in this archive. Highly recommended!

(Publisher's recommendation Ages 8-12)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Read You Must: Star Wars Search Your Feelings

From the creative team that brought us ABC-3PO and Obi-One, Two, Three comes Seach Your Feelings, a poetry-filled exploration of the wide range of emotions experienced by humans, aliens and droids alike, brand new from Disney-Lucasfilm Press.

Starting with events from The Phantom Menace (Anakin destroying the Trade Federation Droid Control Ship while flying a Naboo starfighter to demonstrate "Excited"), Calliope Glass & Caitlin Kennedy have created a 48 page, (mainly) chronological look at the Star Wars saga in short verse poems. 

Each poem has it's own emotional theme, like Jealous, Hopeful, Calm, Surprised or Frustrated, as they flow right to the ending of The Last Jedi.

With plenty of humour and love of the Star Wars saga, the poems contextualize each feeling to a particular familiar moment from the films; the infamous trash compactor scene (Disgusted), a tantrum by Kylo Ren (Angry) and most poignantly, Luke Skywalker in exile (Lonely).

For every feeling, there is a two-page illustration by the fabulous Katie Cook. Her incredibly cute (yet still authentic) take on Star Wars characters give this book an added layer of levity. Yet somehow Cook's illustrations deepen the emotional impact of certain moments too: C-3PO has never looked sadder than he does on the "Sad" page.

Despite the adorable style of Cook's illustrations, and the obvious subject of emotions, this book is a lot of fun and probably a lot more accessible to kids than many books about feelings. It's all about feelings, of course, but it doesn't seem very "touchy-feely", if that makes any sense.
Search Your Feelings, and explore this book today!

Publisher's Recommendation: Ages 6 & up 

Also available:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Read, You Must: The Last Jedi A Junior Novel

With October being Star Wars Reads month, we're going to try to get caught up on reading and reviewing as many Star Wars books as possible. Let's face it, with The Last Jedi and Solo coming out so close together, there have been ALMOST too many new books to handle in the past year. Almost, because really is there such a thing as "too much Star Wars"? Nope.

Released earlier this year, months after the movie release, The Last Jedi A Junior Novel is a great way for middle-grade readers to look at the film from a different perspective.

With 202 pages, author Michael Kogge (The Force Awakens Junior Novel, Poe Dameron: Flight Log) offers a surprisingly serious and powerful take on the Rian Johnson screenplay. "Surprisingly serious" only because his take on The Force Awakens was so much fun to read. This time the adventure is there, but the story feels much more complex and at times somber, which is appropriate for the tone of this particular Star Wars movie.

Kogge doesn't try to gloss over or lighten up the story for young readers. Instead the author treats the story very seriously, sticking very closely to the screenplay, and respects that kids can handle the situations as presented. Nothing jumped out as missing from the movie-to-book translation, so if any key moments were omitted, they must not have been very crucial after all.

Readers will notice a few moments sprinkled throughout that are not from seen in the film, but are in most cases seen in the blu-ray Deleted Scenes. These are the "Exclusive Scenes" advertised on the cover.

The Last Jedi A Junior Novel also contains 8 pages of colour photos from the movie, which is always a fun bonus!

Basically if you loved The Last Jedi but don't get to watch it very often, here's a way to relive the movie whenever you like!

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