Sunday, April 15, 2018

Choose Your Destiny: The Choice is Yours!

Would you like to be able to decide the fate of Han Solo and Chewbacca? How about make the decisions for the crew of the Millennium Falcon?

A new book series from Lucasfilm/Disney Press not only allows young readers to do that sort of thing, but the first book also gives a new glimpse of the relationship of Han Solo and Chewbacca before they meet Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.
Choose Your Destiny: A Han & Chewie Adventure is the first in a series of (hopefully many) new Star Wars books that flow with multiple story paths and outcomes based on the choices of the reader. 
Author Cavan Scott (from the Adventures in Wild Space series) provides the optional storylines over 122 pages, with artwork by Elsa Charretier (Star Wars Adventures) along the way.
This is the first of many new Han Solo-focused new books coming soon as excitement builds for the upcoming film Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Longtime Star Wars readers may remember previous book series’ with a similar adventure-choosing format. Some of them can still be found in used book stores and online.

Back in 2008-2010 a series of The Clone Wars books had a similar structure for self-determined readers. “Decide Your Destiny” was the series name for these five books, starting with The Way of the Jedi and ending with Dooku’s Secret Army. These adventures were connected to the events of the animated series, but of course could end up being very different based on reader’s choices!
Even further back, in 1998 “Choose Your Own Star Wars Adventure” was a set of three books based on A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. If you can remember a time when there were only three Star Wars movies, you may remember these books. “You control the twists, turns, and outcomes of the most exciting adventure in the galaxy,” the books promised.

Whatever Star Wars books you choose, may the Force be with you!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Read, You Must: Encyclopedia of Starfighters and Other Vehicles

I must admit that the spaceships are not my favourite part of Star Wars. While I completely appreciate them on screen, and especially in toy form, I've never gotten particularly excited about the vehicles.

For me Star Wars is so much about the characters - and especially the aliens! For a 208-page book specifically about vehicles to keep me engaged like Encyclopedia of Starfighters and Other Vehicles has, that's really impressive! Certainly I can see readers referring back to this one many times.

Written by Landry Q. Walker (author of the very entertaining Star Wars Aliens Volume 1 and writer for the Star Wars Adventures comics), this book is similar to DK's Encyclopedia of Characters in many ways.

Encyclopedia of Starfighters gives one full-colour, individual fact-sheet for about 200 Star Wars vehicles. Whether they are pivotal to the Star Wars Saga like Millennium Falcon or the Death Star, or very obscure “blink-and-you-miss-it” background ships, everything is equal here. Each page has several images and details about the ship plus how they fit into the story.

The title is a little misleading as there seem to be just as many cargo ships, transporters, walkers, tanks, boats, frigates, cruisers, speeders, skiffs and just about everything else as there are starfighters. Starfighters is probably a more exciting word than "transports" though.

The book contains vehicles from Episodes 1 - 8, plus Rogue One, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, all side-by-side. It's a great recent trend when books like this treat the saga as a whole, and weighing the animated shows equally with the movies.

Encyclopedia of Starfighters is divided into sections on Air, Land, Water, and of course Space vehicles, which is the largest section by far. Some of the ships are very well known while others may have only been in one episode of a TV show. Usually from the pictures it's clear what movie an image is from but I would've appreciated something like "First seen in The Clone Wars Season 2 Episode..." on a few of them.

Among all the images and information, author Landry Walker has fun with some of the section headings with puns like "Maul Aboard", "Soulless Asylum" (ask your parents) and "End over Endor", or cheeky references to movies like "Ion Giant, "Fast and Furious", the 1902 silent film "Trip to the Moon" and at least one reference to Top Gun. Fans of Star Wars Rebels will appreciate why the threatening Clone Wars-era AT-TE walker is referred to as a "Retirement Home".
Thall Joben from 1985's Droids cartoon

One enjoyable nugget that jumped out for this 80's kid was the expansion of the story of Kanan Jarrus' Joben T-85 Speeder. In Adam Bray's 2014 Star Wars Rebels The Visual Guide, the name Joben seemed to be a reference to the racing character Thall Joben from the 1985 Star Wars cartoon series Droids. Here that is confirmed and elaborated on that the bike is indeed "named for famous swoop racer Thall Joben". 

There's probably more fun for keen-eyed fans to discover too!
There is one design oddity that jumped out: on the page for the infamous Slave-1, the ship is rightly attributed to Jango Fett, then to Boba Fett but here Boba is only briefly mentioned and neither Fett is pictured. Instead, the pirate Hondo Ohnaka is pictured with a reference to one time he "borrowed" the ship. A picture of Jango and young Boba sitting together in the cockpit would've made much more sense here. Hondo fans will be happy though!

The Star Wars Encyclopedia of Starfighters is highly recommended for fans wanting a quick overview of many vehicles in an easily accessible format. If you’re looking for further details, you’ll also want to dive into books like the Incredible Cross-Sections series (also from DK).

(Publisher's Recommendation: Ages 8 - 12 years)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Read, You Can: The Last Jedi

With The Last Jedi now available for home viewing, or coming soon depending on where you live, you may be looking for ways to expand on your enjoyment of the movie. Or perhaps you're looking for something to do between repeat viewings?

Here are several books for young readers that expand or enhance the story from the latest Star Wars film.

The Last Jedi Junior Novel - Author Michael Kogge (The Force Awakens Junior Novel, Poe Dameron: Flight Log) retells The Last Jedi for middle-grade readers, with deleted and extended scenes, as well as exclusive scenes you won't find anywhere else featuring Rey, Chewbacca, R2-D2, Finn, and more! This book also includes an 8-page full-color insert.

The Legends of Luke Skywalker - In The Last Jedi, the issue of Luke's status as a hero and legend has become a concern for the aging Jedi. This collection of tales (written by award-winning author Ken Liu) told by the crew aboard a cargo ship gives readers an idea of the kinds of stories floating around about Luke. But are the stories true, or merely tall tales passed from one corner of the galaxy to another? Readers will have to decide for themselves!

Colbalt Squadron - Author Elizabeth Wein offers this adventure starring sisters Rose and Paige Tico sets up their stories in The Last Jedi. Similar to previous middle-grade novels like Weapon of a Jedi and Moving Target, which both also featured art by Phil Noto, this story goes into the lives of the Resistance flight crew members. Like Before the Awakening did for The Force Awakens, Colbalt Squardon leads up to the events of The Last Jedi.

Bomber Command - covering similar ground to Cobalt Squadron, frequent Star Wars author Jason Fry creates the journal of Paige Tico, the ill-fated sister of Rose. This covers many aspects of The Last Jedi from the perspective of the Resistance fighter. Much like previous journals from Studio Fun (Rey's Survival Guide, Sabine: My Rebel Sketchbook) it is fully-illustrated with Paige's notes plus diagrams, sketches and fold-out sections.

Star Wars The Last Jedi The Visual Dictionary - Can never say enough good things about the Visual Dictionary books. In-depth details and photos of nearly every alien, droid, weapon, helmet, vehicle and more.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Incredible Cross-Sections - for the extremely detail-oriented fans, the Incredible Cross-Sections books show all the ins and outs of key vehicles and spaceships and more! Plus gorgeous large-size photos from the movie. Illustrated by the amazing Kemp Remillard (The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections) with descriptions by the above-mentioned Jason Fry.

That's not every tie-in book but it's sure a great start to expanding on your enjoyment of The Last Jedi!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Read, You Must: Chewie and the Porgs

Viewers of The Last Jedi may be particularly curious of how the relationship between a hungry Chewbacca and the adorable bird-like porgs of Ahch-To translates into a kid-friendly picture book.

That’s certainly understandable because in the movie, Chewbacca takes an interest in the porgs, but it’s not to become friends!

Chewie and the Porgs (Disney-Lucasfilm Press) is the second in a new wave of beautifully illustrated picture books based upon the most recent Star Wars films. Following BB-8 On the Run, Chewie and the Porgs shows how they meet, how they help each other and become friends.

Where BB-8 On The Run offers a between-the-scenes look at what happens offscreen during The Force Awakens, Chewie and the Porgs is an alternate look at the first meeting between the wookiee and the small island creatures. 
It is similar but very different to how they become acquainted in The Last Jedi.

Author Kevin Shinick introduces young readers to the mysterious planet and it’s cute little inhabitants while the familiar wookiee searches for food. Luke Skywalker and Rey are barely seen as this is truly Chewie’s story.

Artist Fiona Hsieh captures the cuteness of it all with a colourful retro style similar to the recent Star Wars Golden Books series.

For those who desperately need to know if this story is officially part of the Star Wars timeline, referred to by fans as the canon, the answer is no. This story specifically states that “fishing season is over and all the fish are gone”, where in The Last Jedi, Luke clearly has caught a big fish while Rey and Chewbacca are on the island. That’s just one example.

If you can forget about the events of the movie for a few minutes, it’s very easy for kids and parents to enjoy this touching story about cooperation and friendship.

And it's SOOO cute!

Highly recommended.

(Publisher’s Recommendation Ages 5 – 8 years)

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