Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Ultimate Star Wars Pop-Up Book!

If you haven't explored the world of modern pop-up books you owe it to yourself to look at Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop-Up Galaxy.

The latest Star Wars pop-up book from the incredible paper engineer Matthew Reinhart is an impressive marvel to explore and animate.

Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop-Up Galaxy (2019 Insight Editions) takes things up another level (literally) from Reinhart's previously released Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure (2012) and Star Wars: A Pop Up Guide to the Galaxy (2007). Not only are there 5 major spreads, there are 24 pop-ups in total as each corner has it's own smaller but no less imaginative pop-up.

But that's not the end of the excitement: the entire book can be basically turned inside out and laid out as a massive table-topping 37" x 44" 3D diorama!

Diorama is a fitting word as this is almost as much a playset as it is a book. There's plenty to do, to make happen, and really the closer you look into the details the more nuggets you'll discover. There are hidden gems and little surprises everywhere. For example, despite the focus on the films, fans of Star Wars Rebels will notice a very familiar ship make an appearance.

Reinhart is the author here as well as the designer, taking us through a chronological retelling of the Star Wars films, including moments from Rogue One and Solo. The final pop-up is a space battle moment from The Rise of Skywalker.
The artwork is all by Kevin M. Wilson, so the whole book has a more "realistic" look than the previous Reinhart Star Wars pop-ups which were far more stylized.

The only drawback with the book is the construction of it. Once you completely open it up to create the full diorama, it never really holds together as well as it did before, making repeat read-throughs kind of awkward. That's a small price to pay for a book that is a really an experience to be had. The mechanics of the movement is really delightful here!

Speaking of price, this is not an inexpensive book by any means and is not necessarily even a children's book as many of the pop-ups are very delicate. However for fans young and old this would make a wonderful gift, and great way to explore the Star Wars saga together!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Read, You Must: THE Book for The Mandalorian Fans!

While no official novels or comics directly connected to The Mandalorian have been announced (yet), there is one book that fans of the wildly successful streaming Disney+ show should have in their collection: The Bounty Hunter Code.

The title alone should be familiar with viewers of The Mandalorian as the "code" is mentioned several times in the first season. But what about the "guild", or the many specific references to Mandalorian culture? All of that and more is detailed in this book.

The Bounty Hunter Code is part of a series of In-Universe books from becker&mayer!/Chronicle Books, collectively known as the "Secrets of the Galaxy" series. This series includes The Jedi Path, The Book of Sith, and more recently The Smuggler's Guide and The Rebel Files. Each book is an industry-specific guide book or training manual presented as though it actually exists in the Star Wars galaxy, complete with handwritten notes from notable Star Wars characters, as though passed from person to person over time.
The only official The Mandalorian book yet

2013 Deluxe Edition

The Bounty Hunter Code was released in 2013 initially in a deluxe packaging set. That included a very cool case, data card, a Kaminoan saber dart, a wanted poster and an extra booklet still unavailable elsewhere. The following year it was released on its own, just the book. While it is not specifically a book for young readers, fans who are already watching the The Mandalorian will be able to handle any of the concepts presented here.

Inside what you get is a copy of "The Bounty Hunters Guild Handbook", the guide you may need to start your career in this profession. Instructions and advice follow on how to find work, how to capture and contain targets, how to collect rewards and more. What equipment to use, what weapons and vehicles too, can mean life or death in this line of work, so it's a good idea to read carefully!

Some of the bounty hunting methods like trackers and pucks are a little different in The Mandalorian than what is written here, but remember that the series takes place after the fall of the Empire, while this handbook was put together well before the Empire then updated during the height of the Emperor's reign. Generally it feels like the creators of the TV series were all told to read this book before they started writing.

This book is subtitled "From the Files of Boba Fett" and was presumably written some time before Boba Fett was born. Some of it would not be considered "canon" in Star Wars, most notably the references to Boba Fett having a daughter named Ailyn Vel, a character not established in the official timeline. For the most part though, it is very relevant to the show and the current Star Wars galaxy.

While there's no Child here (aka "Baby Yoda"), the final part of the book is filled with concepts seen in the show: included in this book is a 30-page history of Death Watch, which covers a lot of Mandalorian warrior culture and history. What is Beskar? What is a Mythosaur? These things and more are mentioned in the show but not really explained in detail. The Bounty Hunter Code elaborates on both, enhancing the understanding of what's going on screen.
The Bounty Hunter Code was collectively written by Daniel Wallace (The Jedi Path), Jason Fry (The Weapon of a Jedi) & Ryder Windham (Adventures in Hyperspace), three of the most prolific authors of Star Wars books, and wonderfully illustrated by a variety of artists. 

Ryder Windham elaborated on some of these ideas of the working life of a bounty hunter in his novel Star Wars Rebels: Ezra's Gamble, where Ezra encounters the infamous bounty hunter Bossk.

Until there is an official tie-in book series for The Mandalorian, fans of the show can find plenty to enjoy here in The Bounty Hunter Code.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Indoor Activities, the Star Wars Way!

Whether it's an Imperial takeover, First Order occupation, a Blue Shadow virus going around, or just a Kamino-style rainy day, staying indoors will not stop young Star Wars fans from loving their favourite galaxy far, far away!  

Yes of course you could read Star Wars books, play with Star Wars toys and games, dress up in costumes (be careful with those indoor lightsaber battles!) but there are also plenty of Star Wars activity books out there to help kids get creative and enjoy their indoor time!

For Young Artists:

Star Wars Doodles (Disney)  By artist Zack Giallongo!
"Younglings can draw, color, and create with all their favorite characters from the Star Wars films."

Star Wars Thumb Doodles (Klutz Press) "With ink art and a few quick lines, you can recreate favorite moments from the movies or from scenes never seen before...Even in a galaxy far, far away."

Draw Star Wars Rebels (Klutz Press) "A complete how-to guide packed with expert tips and easy step-by-step instructions that let kids bring these exciting new Star Wars characters to life."
ART2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling (An Origami Yoda Activity Book) (Abrams)
One of our favourite authors Tom Angleberger—with the help of the kids from McQuarrie Middle School—presents young Padawans with 75+ activities from the Star Wars universe. This is a tie-in book to the popular Origami Yoda book series.

For Young Scientists & Engineers:

Star Wars Maker Lab (DK) "With 20 amazing projects, Star Wars Maker Lab teaches your budding Padawan how to become a Master of science, in both the real world and the Star Wars galaxy."

Star Wars Science Fair Book (Scholastic) "Gear up for Science Fair season with exciting Star Wars-themed science experiments!"

Star Wars Folded Flyers (Klutz Press) "For the first time ever, you can fold Star Wars flyers that fly with the force. Star Wars Folded Flyers will speed through the living room as well as they do in outer space."

For Young Crafters & Cooks:

Star Wars Mania "Part craft book, part activity book, with over 40 projects to make in each book, the Mania series offers hours of creative fun for boys and girls of all ages!"

The Star Wars Craft Book (Del Rey) "Fans of all ages and skill levels can bring the best of the galaxy far, far away right into their own homes." 

Star Wars Make & Do (Egmont Books Ltd UK) "Plenty for young Star Wars fans to do: things to make, including a Chewbacca hand puppet, a stormtrooper helmet, and the Yoda decoder."

The Star Wars Cook Book: BB-ATE (Chronicle) There have been several books in the series. This one is the most recent and focuses on breakfast and brunch items. And as always, a lot of food puns. 
Do you have a favourite Star Wars activity book? Let us know in the comments. There's probably enough we missed to make a part 2 to this. Maybe 3!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Read, You Must: Queen's Shadow

Paperback available March 20, 2020
What do you do when you're a teenager and your reign as Queen of Naboo has finished? Well if the Chancellor of the Galactic Senate asks you to serve, you become one of the youngest senators in the galaxy.

Now available in paperback, Queen's Shadow is a Young Adult novel from Disney-Lucasfilm Press that details Padmé's transition from Queen to Senator. 

From her awkward first days on Coruscant to backroom meetings and uncertain alliances, the story covers this period between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. It's not an easy life for Padmé with all eyes on her and powerful enemies working against her. She continues to surround herself with her handmaidens and security staff, the few she can trust.

Written by E. K. Johnston (author of Star Wars: Ahsoka), this novel fills in part of the 10 or so year gap between Episodes 1 and 2.

Fans of the political intrigue of The Phantom Menace will enjoy the strategic moves required as the young senator learns the delicate dance her new job requires.

Fans of the larger Star Wars saga will appreciate reading of Padmé's first meetings with Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, and The Clone Wars fans especially will appreciate the introduction of characters like Mina and Lux Bonteri, Rush Clovis and others. This story interweaves many key characters from earlier in their careers than has ever been depicted before.
Original hardcover design (2019)

It's hard to say what the plot here is, exactly, as much of the book feels like the first part of a much larger story. Johnston seems to be working very hard though the entire book to set up for whatever comes next. And sure enough, coming this summer is the follow-up novel, Queen's Peril. It's not clear if that was the plan all along, but it feels that way.

As Padmé navigates the tricky waters of politics, Johnston also strategically sets up the pieces in place for the next book. At times this can be a bit slow, but for those who enjoy the political maneuvering, this is quite an enjoyable story in its own right.

Along the way there is espionage, attempts at character assassination and even romance. That element is pretty tame by YA standards but still a little more adult than a middle-grade novel would ever have.

Also along the way are many, many wardrobe and hairstyle changes. Due to the nature of the handmaidens often playing decoy, these are a necessary security measure.  

As The Clone Wars returns with new episodes on Disney+, it’s a lot of fun to revisit the “prequel” era of Star Wars. For Young Adult fans who grew up with a fascination for Padmé Amidala and her tragic part of the Skywalker saga this story is a welcome way to flesh out her tale.

(Publisher’s Recommendation: Ages 12 and up)
Also by E. K. Johnston

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Dive into the Star Wars universe with In-Universe books

Other than those "sacred Jedi texts" that Yoda couldn't even pretend to enjoy reading, you don't often see much reading of books happening within the Star Wars movies.

However there are plenty of books out there, and more to come, set within the Star Wars universe. These books are often described as being "In-Universe". But what does that mean?

An In-Universe book is a book written here on earth, published by an earthbound publisher, but presented as though written by a Star Wars character. In many cases, the book is put together as though it would be one that Star Wars characters might read.

For example, the recent The Secrets of the Jedi is presented as though Luke Skywalker himself wrote it. Although actually written by non-Jedi earthling Marc Sumerak, it comes across as Luke's own thoughts and knowledge, his notes for future Jedi.

The journal style is a common one for In-Universe books, like Rebel Journal by Ezra Bridger and Sabine's My Rebel Sketchbook (both written by Daniel Wallace) or Rey's Survival Guide, Rose Tico: Resistance Fighter, or Rogue One: Rebel Dossier (all by Jason Fry). These books appear to be the personal diaries/scrapbooks of the characters, giving young readers a more intimate perspective on the characters' onscreen adventures.

Along this line are the instructional manual books like The Jedi Path, The Book of Sith and The Bounty Hunter Guide (all by Daniel Wallace & others). These books are actually put together as though if it were a training manual in each respective field. On top of that, there are notes from key Star Wars characters jotted in the margins, as though the copy you are holding has been in many notable hands before.

Another type of In-Universe book is the reference book, like Galactic Maps or Alien Archive. Both of these are written to be as non-fiction books you might find within the Star Wars universe. Every library must have them, presumably.

Taking the In-Universe idea even further are books like Myths & Fables (and presumably its upcoming follow-up Dark Legends).  Myths & Fables is completely presented as if it's a storybook you could purchase somewhere in the Star Wars universe. What would a bookshop on Coruscant carry in it's Kids section? Probably something like this.

Also coming soon is Galaxy's Edge: Traveler's Guide to Batuu. This guidebook to the Disney Parks attraction will also be In-Universe "as if you are a visitor from another part of the galaxy looking for recommendations on where to eat, shop, and sightsee while on your trip to this exciting location."

If you are looking for a change of pace in your Star Wars reading, try out an In-Universe title for a different perspective and a lot of fun!
Coming July 2020

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