Thursday, August 31, 2017

Read, You Must: BB-8 On The Run

BB's Big Adventure!

What happened to BB-8 in The Force Awakens between fleeing from the First Order and meeting Rey?

Apparently quite a lot!

BB-8 On the Run is an exciting new picture book from Disney/Lucasfilm Press that reveals the droid’s mini-adventure on Jakku, the scenes that happen between-the-scenes from the movie.

Drew Daywalt, author of the very popular The Day the Crayons Quit, tells the tale of BB-8 facing danger, making friends, being a hero and much more. It is a very busy day for the rolling droid!

With vibrant, beautifully colourful paintings by illustrator Matt Myers on every page, the story feels as warm as the Jakku sunlight.

BB-8 starts his first day alone on Jakku by trying to be helpful but unfortunately rolls himself into a scavenger’s trap! The Teedo character who has BB-8 caught in a net in the film is the main villain here, and it turns out the alien and the droid have plenty of conflict in the day prior to meeting Rey.

Teedo rides a Luggabeast!
Teaming up with another trapped droid, the hulky but cartoonish F3-ZK (aka. “Fez”), BB-8 escapes and proceeds to flee further across the Jakku desert. New dilemmas seem to be over each sandy hill, and BB-8 never shies from the challenges. Never discouraged either, he spends his day doing random acts of kindness.

BB-8 On the Run is really a story about making choices, that every situation presents the choice to be selfless and help others. BB-8 knows his own mission is very important, but so is doing the right thing for those who need help. His owner Poe would be very proud of his decisions even when they seem dangerous!

After being “on the run” all day, BB-8 eventually encounters Teedo one more time, which leads to meeting Rey as seen in The Force Awakens. This leads to a satisfying conclusion for those who have seen the film and know how it all plays out. 

Young readers may not know what happens next, though, who the woman is or why Teedo is suddenly gone. Children unfamiliar with the movie (which was rated PG-13 for USA) will probably need the abrupt ending explained.

More important though, the story is an entertaining adventure, beautifully illustrated and full of kindness and humanity – not an easy thing to do for a story about a robot!

The tone here might be a little too cute for some adult tastes but BB-8 On the Run cleverly walks that line. For or those who remember the 1980's Droids cartoons and comics fondly you will likely really enjoy this as well!

Highly recommended!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Read, You Must: Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

DK Publishing has created many terrific visual guides to the Star Wars universe and have just added another “must-have” book to that list.

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia is a pictorial catalogue of the people, places and things of the Star Wars universe.  Where Ultimate Star Wars goes into much more descriptive detail of the galactic events and character stories of the Star Wars saga, The Visual Encyclopedia gives a wide-ranging overview of what a visitor to that universe might discover.

Across 200 pages, the book contains spread after spread on a wide variety of topics, each full of visual examples. Everything from weapons and armor to creatures and droids are all broken down into categories (and sub-categories) then represented with multiple example images.

The writing team behind this book have all worked some of our favourite Star Wars guide books from the past few years. Tricia Barr (co-author on Ultimate Star Wars), Adam Bray and Cole Horton (both co-authors of Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, Chronicles of the Force and more) tie together the wildly varied items on display with their descriptions and notes.

The uniforms of the Empire are contrasted with the casual dress of smugglers and pirates. Royal dresses from Naboo to Alderaan are also compared. Interested in the foods, toys and musical instruments of Star Wars? They’re all here. How about helmets? LOADS of those! And so many droids!

The Visual Encyclopedia finds its examples (for just about everything) from throughout the Star Wars saga, from the movies, including Rogue One, to The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Instead of dividing things based on when or where they appeared onscreen, here everything is presented as equally important. It’s all Star Wars!

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia really feels like an extensive souvenir book from the coolest museum exhibit ever. It can be read from start to finish, or you can open it up just about anywhere to have a closer look at nearly anything from the Star Wars universe.

Highly recommended!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Read, You Must: Guardians of the Whills

For fans of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, learning more about the new characters and worlds from the movie is a welcome treat. The duo of characters Jyn Erso encounters in Jedha City, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, have particularly intriguing pasts only hinted at onscreen.

Now those two are the stars of their own middle-grade novel from Disney-Lucasfilm Press, Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka (Before the Awakening, Smuggler’s Run).

Baze and Chirrut were a part of a group called the Guardians of the Whills, sworn to protect the sacred Kyber temple on Jedha. They are not Jedi themselves, but they do seem to be sharply attuned to some aspects of the Force, especially Chirrut. Since the Empire has taken over Jedha City and closed the temple, the two men are uncertain of their purpose or their future.

The story takes place before they meet Jyn or Cassian Andor. Under Imperial rule, Jedha City is getting worse and worse. Violence is escalating while food and water are becoming scarce. People are scared, hungry and losing hope. Baze and Chirrut find themselves helping an ever-growing group of children who have lost their parents in the conflict.

In order to protect the orphans they make a risky agreement with the potentially dangerous Saw Gerrara and his rebels. They all want to get rid of the Empire but Saw has some drastic ideas of how to fight them.

Also by Greg Rucka
Author Greg Rucka treats the story very seriously and doesn’t soften it for young readers. Where on TV Star Wars Rebels gives some idea how planets suffer under Imperial control, here readers get much more a real sense of that suffering. This book is difficult to describe without making it sound overly bleak. There’s tragedy, hardship and fear all around. That is the reality of war even in a fictional galaxy.

Chirrut is the main voice of hope though and his strong faith is uplifting when others around him feel so defeated. Indeed the story is at times heavy but the overall serious tone is very effective in building the tension right up to the final moments!

There’s no real reason to expect a happy ending, but Chirrut and Baze never lose hope that trying something nearly impossible is still possible. There’s always hope, a key theme of Rogue One, and Star Wars overall.

Some readers looking for lighter fun and adventure may want to look at books like Join the Resistance and the Adventures in Wild Space books. Guardians of the Whills is a complicated story about two aging men of faith and their struggles to find meaning. They deal with complex issues like when, if ever, is violence justified? The answers don’t come easy as Chirrut often points out, the cost may be too high.

Rucka particularly shines during the dialogue between Chirrut and Baze. He has perfectly captured their voices as they spoke in Rogue One. Chirrut always has a deeper twist in his sometimes puzzling statements. Baze is no-nonsense and quick to the point. They debate like only two life-long friends can.

Guardians of the Whills is a philosophical Star Wars novel and a captivating character story. It will certainly appeal to young readers who like to ponder the big questions of life, and probably a lot of adults too.

(Publisher’s Recommendation: Ages 9+)

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