Oct 08 2013

Review: Star Wars books for kids by Jeffrey Brown

The announcement last year that Disney had acquired the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas and the subsequent announcement that they would be releasing at least three more Star Wars movies, has sent the sci-fi and fantasy world into a frenzy.  This has created a surge in books that are outside the normal reference books and fictionalized takes.

Three of those books are by New York Times bestselling author Jeffrey Brown.  The first, Darth Vader and Son is an amusing approach told in single panel illustrations on the premise “What if Darth Vader found himself a single parent to his four-year old son, Luke?”  The result is a hilarious depiction of Lord Vader dealing with a son who won’t eat his vegetables, put away his toys, or go to bed on time, intermixed with quotes from the movies that any fan will recognize.

The book also depicts Vader trying to tackle some of the tougher childhood questions such as “Where do babies come from?” and “Dad, why is it called a Death Star?”  In special homage to the hardcore fan-base, Brown also pokes fun at the Han/Greedo “who shot first?” debate.

While anyone who has ever been around children will be able to relate to the scenarios portrayed, parents will especially appreciate this book and find themselves smiling in sympathy.

Darth Vader and Son is aimed at Star Wars fans and other geeks, but anyone from reading age up to adults will find it enjoyable.  In addition, this book is a great way for parents to give their reading age children who have seen the movies an additional introduction to the Star Wars universe.

 

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The second book in Brown’s series is Vader’s Little Princess.  Following the same premise of Darth Vader as a single father, this companion book tracks Leia from a young girl into the teenage years.

In early panels, Vader deals with incidents such as wearing a bright orange cozy on his head, simply to please his daughter, and being reduced to putty by a simple hug while trying to scold an Admiral.  In true twin fashion, Luke and Leia are depicted teaming up against Vader and getting into mischief such as hiding his keys and crashing Luke’s X-Wing into the Degobah swamp.

As Leia grows into young womanhood, Vader finds himself at a loss as to how to deal with the changes in his daughter.  Suddenly, she’s hogging the bathroom and asking her father to park the AT-AT around the corner when dropping her off at school. The perils of teenage driving are touched on when Vader is teaching Leia how to drive his Tie Fighter, and career day turns awkward when Princess Leia starts asking questions about what her father does for a living.

Finally, in a brilliant homage to The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is introduced as an on again-off again love interest.  Brown takes scenes from the original film and turns them into fun moments any man with daughters will recognize.

As with Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess is intended for the Star Wars devotee, but parents, especially those with teen girls, will relate to the scenes within.  Though amusing and fun, a few of the panels felt as if they were “reaching” to create the joke, and I felt it paled slightly in comparison to it’s companion volume, Darth Vader and Son.

Vader’s Little Princess is appropriate for all ages, and scenes regarding dating and skimpy clothing are handled in such a way that even parents of young children should feel comfortable sharing this book.

 

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Brown’s third book, Jedi Academy, steers away from Darth Vader and delves into the story of Roan Novachez.  Set approximately 200 years before the events of Return of the Jedi, Roan is a young boy on the planet Tatooine who thinks his life is over when he is rejected by Pilot Academy Middle School.  Convinced that he is doomed to attending Tatooine Agriculture Academy, Roan is shocked when he receives an acceptance letter from Jedi Academy.  Here, Roan meets Master Yoda and other Academy instructors including Librarian Lackbar, T-3P0, and RW-22.

Readers of Jedi Academy will notice similarities in style and perspective to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  As with Greg in Wimpy Kid, Jedi Academy’s Roan recounts his struggles as the new kid at school.  The Jedi Academy normally does not accept older children, and this adds to Roan’s feelings of awkwardness and of being an outsider.

Jedi Academy is appropriate for readers aged 7 to 12, though as with his other books, Brown creates a story that adult readers will be able to enjoy as well.  Star Wars fans will enjoy the subtle references to the movies, such as Roan’s least favorite teacher bearing a marked resemblance to Darth Maul and Yoda’s urging of “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Jedi Academy is an enjoyable and amusing read, although the ending felt a bit rushed.  In addition, the handwriting font was at times difficult to read and detracted from the overall story.

Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess would both make wonderful additions to the collection of any Star Wars fan young or old.

While most adults will not be as interested in Jedi Academy, it would be an excellent gift for younger or middle school aged children.

 

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