Saturday, February 22, 2020

Learn The Secrets of the Jedi

Wouldn't we all like to know the secrets of the Jedi? How to attune ourselves with the Force and become a powerful guardian of peace in the galaxy?

That may not be entirely possible just yet, but a new book from Insight Kids (Insight Editions) seeks to give young Jedi a start on their path of unraveling all of the Jedi order's mysteries...and secrets.

The Secrets of the Jedi is journal of sorts, told by Luke Skywalker himself (actually Marc Sumerak), detailing a brief history of Jedi lore, techniques, philosophies and more. Presumably Luke took a few hours to himself to get all his thoughts down before appearing at the battle of Crait at the end of The Last Jedi.

Over 32 beautifully illustrated pages (illustrations by Sergio G√≥mez Silvan), "Luke" discusses topics like the Old Republic, The Force, The Light Side, The Dark Side and more. He also goes into detail about lightsabers, Jedi combat techniques, and Force abilities.  

The Secrets of the Jedi really feels like an extension of the earlier book The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace, like it's Luke's additional notes on that text. In fact one of the sections inside is titled The Jedi Path.

Not only is this large-size hardcover book illustrated, it also contains fold-outs, pop-ups, envelopes to open, and a poster of the cover artwork.
Author Marc Sumerak (Star Wars: Droidography) truly captures the voice of the troubled older Luke, looking back on the successes and failures of his teachers and his own teachings. He reflects on what he had learned from Masters like Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, but also what younger students like Ben Solo and Rey taught him. Luke frequently refers to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader as his father, personally connecting himself to these stories.

Not to be confused with this one!
Occasionally Luke here knows something where one must stop and ponder HOW Luke would know that. Some are easy to sort out, others pose interesting questions. Like how did Luke know the true circumstances of Mace Windu's death? Only Darth Sidious, and newly named Darth Vader, walked out of that office alive. Perhaps through the Force he was able to learn the truth. The official Imperial account of the events would have been much different.

I have mentioned this in previous more recent book reviews, but it bears repeating, that one of the wonderful aspects of the Disney era of Star Wars books is that the entire saga can be used and referenced. There are many examples here of Luke discussing not only details we saw in the movies, but also characters and events from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels too. Treating the saga as one big story really makes it feel like a cohesive and interconnected galaxy. Years ago had this book been written, it would be much more limited in scope.

For younglings, Padawans, and older fans looking to dive into the teachings of the Jedi, and especially Master Luke Skywalker, The Secrets of the Jedi is an excellent start.

(Publisher's Recommendation: 8 - 12 years)
See also:

Also "by Luke Skywalker"

Sunday, February 9, 2020

R2-D2 is LOST! ...and a Lot of Fun!

The duo that brought us C-3PO Does Not Like Sand! returns with another fun Droid Tales picture book featuring R2-D2, C-3PO and BB-8 from Disney - Lucasfilm Press.

Set some time after The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi - indicated only by the fact that the three droids know each other - author Caitlin Kennedy (The Galaxy Needs You) takes the trio on an adventure, this time returning to the forest moon of Endor, home to the Ewoks.

C-3PO delights again in being worshipped by the furry Ewoks, but R2-D2 appears to become annoyed, possibly even jealous, with his friend getting such attention. The astromech rolls off on his own into the dangerous Endor wilderness.

R2-D2 then encounters a lost young Ewok and becomes the child's caretaker, assuming the unlikely role of babysitter. The two then embark on their own little adventure to find their way back to the Ewok village.

Unlike C-3PO Does Not Like Sand!, which had the talkative C-3PO chattering away through everything, this book contains very few words as neither R2 or the young Ewok have much to say in words we'd understand. The story is told visually by the colourful cartoon artwork of Brian Kesinger.

There's funny stuff, scary stuff and several moments parents and caregivers will find very relatable in this short adventure tale.

Like the previous book, this feels very similar to the 1980's Saturday morning Droids cartoon kind of story and humour. It's unclear if Droid Tales is going to continue only as a book series or maybe it turns into something bigger. Pehaps BB-8 will get his own book next? Perhaps a new animated cartoon series? Let's hope!

(Publisher's Recommendation: Age 5-8 years)

Also available:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Choose to Choose Your Destiny!

The latest title in the Choose Your Destiny series is A Finn & Poe Adventure, published last year as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker promotion.

For those unfamiliar with the series, these exciting, plot twisting tales flow with multiple story paths and outcomes based on the choices of the reader. The story can be tragically short or unfold as a lengthy adventure, depending on the decisions made.

At 140 pages, these page-turning chapter books are great fun for middle graders to enjoy controlling the story.

This time Poe, Finn and BB-8 evade the First Order at every turn on their mission for the Resistance. The story takes place between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.

As with the other books in the series A Finn & Poe Adventure is written by Cavan Scott (Adventures in Wild Space) and illustrated by Elsa Charretier. Scott captures the banter of these two characters and puts them into appropriately silly but dangerous dilemmas. Charretier's wildly colourful and exciting images add a fun element to the books too.

Unfolding more like a game than a regular novel, these stories are a lot of fun and challenge the reader to "solve" them by getting to the one happy ending.

Choose wisely!

Review of A Han & Chewie Adventure here

 Also available:

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Read, You Must: Spark of the Resistance

“We are the spark, that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down.”
- Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Continuing the series of movie tie-in middle-grade Star Wars novels from Disney-Lucasfilm Press is Spark of the Resistance, released last year as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker promotions.

Author Justina Ireland (Lando's Luck) gives us a fun and exciting side adventure featuring Rey, Poe, Rose and BB-8. There are no major connections to the events of the movie, but it gives an idea of what the Resistance were up to between the films, and how they managed to regrow the movement against the First Order after the devastating losses at the end of The Last Jedi.

Rey, Poe, Rose and BB-8 are on a special mission when they detect a distress call from the planet Minfar. Being the "good guys" they are, they ignore their orders from Leia and decide to help. Once there they encounter the Zixon, an alien species who live in an amazing underground society after their fights with the Empire. Now the First Order are the new enemy, and the Zixon aren't going to take it any more.

The plot revolves around a race against time to find an experimental and dangerous new technology called the Echo Horn before the First Order can use it against unwilling citizens of the galaxy.

The other half of the story involves the internal power struggles of mid-level leadership within the First Order, namely a pompous new character Commander Spiftz, who will stop at nothing to capture the Resistance leaders and the prized Millennium Falcon! 

His clashes with his scientist advisors and his core belief that he is always the smartest person in the room make him a great new villain. Much of the humour in this 224 page novel revolves around Spiftz, some of the inept people below him, and his own delusions of grandeur.

With occasional illustrations by the always-excellent Phil Noto, the book is a fun addition to a young Star Wars fan's bookshelf.

Star Wars: Spark of the Resistence is a fast-paced and enjoyable adventure, particularly for fans of Rey and Poe.

(Publisher's Recommendation: 8 -12 years)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Read, You Must: DK Star Wars visual guides

One of the great traditions with Lucasfilm's publishing world is that each movie release seems to have its own lavish book of visuals to pour over from DK books. The format changes from time-to-time but each of these books is reliably full of full-colour, highly-detailed photos of characters, costumes, props, and spaceships from the film. The text highlights details you may have missed or expand on the story with info that didn't make it on screen.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker The Visual Dictionary does not disappoint in any of these areas. In fact it expands upon the format by also including five cross-section artworks that previously would be in their own book.

At 200 pages this one is more than double the thickness of the previous guides for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. That's almost enough to satisfy even the most detail-hungry fans.

Of course, we have to say "almost" because my only complaint of these books is the same one each time: they always have to omit major moments, character reveals, or other "spoilers" for fear that someone leaks such info from the book before the movie comes out. Seems silly now, but this book does not contain Emperor Palpatine, a major character in The Rise of Skywalker.

That's an understandable necessity in the modern world, and a small complaint. What is here is page after page of photos of characters, droids, creatures, aliens, blasters, lightsabers, helmets and nearly everything else you'd want a closer look at.

Of course it is a visual dictionary, but with text by Lucasfilm's own Pablo Hidalgo there's plenty of meaty stuff to read here too. There are many hints and allusions to possible scenes or even storylines deleted from the movie.

For any fan of the design and detail that goes into the making of the Star Wars universe, these visual dictionaries are a must-have addition to the collection.

For younger fans there is also Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker The Galactic Guide, a similarly packaged book of photos and info about the film, just on a smaller scale.

At 95 pages, this smaller hardcover still delivers with plenty to enjoy, profiling key characters and highlighting interesting facts and tidbits. Many of the same pictures are in both books but in this one you sometimes get a closer look at things, like mysterious character Zori Bliss' helmet.

Both books are up to the usual excellent DK standards for Star Wars fans and augment the movie experience like only the visual guides can. Enjoy!

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