Monday, September 19, 2016

Read, You Must: Star Wars Year By Year (Updated and Expanded Edition)

Kylo Ren slashes across the slip cover

Star Wars Year By Year: A Visual History (Updated and Expanded Edition) is an in-depth look at the origins and development of George Lucas’ movies and how they exploded in popularity. While an equally fantastic book like Ultimate Star Wars details the fictional events within the Star Wars saga, Year By Year looks at the real-world story of Star Wars as it was created, celebrated and loved by humans on Earth

Every spread in DK's Year By Year is full of visuals, from behind-the-scenes photos to international posters to comic and book covers, video game screenshots and plenty of other Star Wars memorabilia. The evolution of Star Wars toys, games, books, clothing, comics, collecting and more are all chronicled here.

Star Wars has very timeless feel to it so sometimes it can be easy to forget that when Lucas was starting to write down his first ideas the availability of home video or video game consoles were still years away and the internet was unimaginable to most of us! Things have changed a LOT and Year By Year highlights all these advancements and how Star Wars evolved with them.

The actual cover of the book
Each year is separated into a different section and important events related to Star Wars are noted. Along the way, landmark achievements for Lucasfilm, ILM and other related organizations are also mentioned. Historical events that were happening around the world are highlighted along the way as well. 

This is an amazing gift book for anyone wanting to learn about how Star Wars got to be the giant it is today. Year By Year is also a great teaching tool to springboard conversations about history, politics and more. Younger readers can still get plenty out of this book as it is as full of images, headlines and short blurbs as it is details and history.

If you are wondering what’s new in this "Updated and Expanded Edition" from the original version from 2010, the answer is…PLENTY!

From the Walt Disney Company purchase of Lucasfilm to the release of The Force Awakens, the launch of Star Wars Rebels and more, a lot has happened in the past few years. While celebrating this new era of Star Wars excitement Year By Year doesn’t shy away from some of the less popular events of recent years like the sudden cancellation of the acclaimed The Clone Wars TV series or the closing of LucasArts (Lucasfilm’s video game division).

For a casual fan, flipping through this book just taking in the pictures may open up a whole new level of appreciation and excitement for Star Wars. Serious fans will find hours of info to enjoy!

As if that weren’t enough, this hefty 360-page large-size book comes in a very spiffy slip-case and includes two prints of early artwork from The Force Awakens!

With Rogue One and more on the horizon, we may see more Star Wars in the next few years than ever before, which hopefully means more books like this one chronicling each step, year by year.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thrawn: A New Threat for Star Wars Rebels

Returning for a third season this month, Star Wars Rebels introduces a dangerous “new” Imperial character named Grand Admiral Thrawn.

But Thrawn isn’t new at all!

Many long-time fans (mostly adults) are excited in anticipation to see this character return to Star Wars. For some, “excited” is a big understatement! But why? Who is Thrawn?

A little history: after the popular appeal of 1983’s blockbuster Return of the Jedi started to die down the widespread appeal of all things Star Wars also started to cool off. Toys, games, clothing, books and more became more and more scarce. As difficult as it is to imagine now, by 1986 it was increasingly rare to find much of ANYTHING Star Wars.

With no new movies on the horizon, no new toys and no new books or comics, the late 80’s are often referred by fans as “the dark times”. Star Wars almost seemed like it was finished forever, at least to the general public. 

Then in 1991, the novel Heir to the Empire was released and became a surprise bestseller! Author Timothy Zahn told his version of what happened to Luke, Han, Leia and the Empire after Return of the Jedi. Heir to the Empire (and two follow-up novels often called The Thrawn Trilogy) ushered in a new era of renewed popular interest in Star Wars. More novels came soon after, along with new comics, toys and by 1999 Episode 1 was released! Star Wars was back!

So for thousands of fans, Heir to the Empire and its sequels were the beginning of a renewed excitement for all things Star Wars.  It’s possible there would be no Episode 1, 2 or 3, let alone The Force Awakens or Rogue One, without the popular appeal of that book and the snowball of fan excitement it created in the early 1990’s. 

Ok, thanks for the history lesson but who is Thrawn? 

Grand Admiral Thrawn is the main villain of that landmark book Heir to the Empire, and several books that followed. He’s a remarkably clever military leader who uses intellect over brute force and almost always wins. He’s a cunning analytical thinker on par with Sherlock Holmes. He’s a villain that for many fans is as important to the Star Wars saga as Darth Vader and the Emperor!

In short: he is incredibly dangerous to the Rebels!

New novel coming in 2017
Even if you’d never heard of Thrawn before there are a lot of reasons to look forward to him appearing in Star Wars Rebels.

First, Rebels features Darth Vader sparingly and so far only glimpses of the Emperor, so a really dangerous and powerful villain would be a welcome addition to the show. 

Second, Thrawn is a very different kind of threat to the Rebels crew and should make for big challenges if they are all to survive to Season 4!

Finally, Thrawn is not human (he’s a blue-skinned Chiss) and in the Empire, humans tend to run everything. Having a very powerful alien within the Empire could cause some interesting conflict within the Empire too!

How long Thrawn lasts and what kind of danger he can pose for the Rebels remains to be seen but what is clear is he will not go down easily! Tune in to Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels to see it unfold!
Scary times ahead for the Ghost crew!
For more information and details about Thrawn see this article on and Thrawn’s Wookiepedia page.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jedi Academy: A New Class and a New Beginning

The fourth book in the Jedi Academy series is full of “new” stuff indeed.

After three books by Jeffrey Brown focused on a young Jedi named Roan Novachez, A New Class starts fresh with author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Lunch Lady, Platypus Police Squad, Punk Farm) taking over this Scholastic series.

Krosoczka’s art and writing styles are different than Brown’s but he does keep the look somewhat consistent with the earlier books. He is clearly a very talented visual storyteller and it will be nice to see him make this series even more his own if he continues with it.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka (right)

A New Class focuses on a brand new main character so it really is a new start to the series.     
For those who are unfamiliar with the Jedi Academy series the books are middle-grade, thoroughly-illustrated novels “told” by a young Jedi student. Imagine a Diary of a Wimpy Kid–type book in Star Wars.
This series is an alternate take on Star Wars where the Jedi are not a serious, monk-like order of Masters and Apprentices. Instead, this is a North American middle-school set in space with a lot of Star Wars puns and jokes throughout. One example, in the movies the Jedi are forbidden to have personal attachments to other people (a crucial story point made over and over) but in the Jedi Academy world, the students have mixed-gender dances, have dates, crushes and even fly home frequently to see their families! So basically you need to disregard everything you know about the Jedi Order or George Lucas’ vision of Star Wars to enjoy these books. 

A New Class begins the tale of Victor Starspeeder, a likeable young Jedi student transferring from another school to the Jedi Academy on Coruscant. In his first year there he meets a few new friends, discovers he has some talent that helps the drama club and has to learn a few lessons along the way with the help of his big sister, a fellow Jedi student. The bigger issues for Victor though are his romantic feelings for a classmate and his unfortunate choice of friendships. Everything builds towards – nope, not a lightsaber battle – nope, not a space battle – the big school play at the end of the year! The drama here is literally about drama!

Along the way are field trips to Endor (the Ewoks’ home moon), food fights, lightsaber training and more. Long-time Star Wars fans will appreciate the dangerous encounter with a Gorax, a creature that debuted in the Ewoks TV movie Caravan of Courage back in 1984! There’s also comic strips throughout parodying Garfield, Peanuts and Family CircusWhile only a small portion of the book, there also is a very positive depiction of step-parenting in A New Class, with the character of Russell.

Jeffrey Brown’s three Jedi Academy books were filled with gags on the theme of putting modern Earth things into Star Wars for a laugh. Jarrett Krosoczka uses far less of that type of humour but it’s still there for readers who enjoy that. For the rest there’s a fast-paced story of a young boy trying to fit in.

Since A New Class begins a brand new storyline in the school, readers could easily start here. It’s not vital to have read the first three books in this series before enjoying this one but books 1 – 3 should be read in that order. 

(Publisher’s recommendation: ages 8 – 12)

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