Monday, September 15, 2014

Star Wars Rebels: Read the Videos

Coming January 2015
As the TV premiere of Star Wars Rebels rapidly approaches, Lucasfilm has released four short videos to highlight individual characters (links below). They also set the tone for what’s to come in the new animated series. These shorts are not part of future episodes though - they are mini-episodes set in the same world and time-frame.

The four videos are entertaining and engaging ways to introduce the action and characters, but if you want to possibly dig deeper these stories have all been released in brand-new books from Lucasfilm Press/Disney Book Group, adapted for various reading levels.

For confident readers, all four stories have been retold and expanded upon in the “Star Wars Saga Chapter Book” Rise of the Rebels by Michael Kogge. The illustrations are minimal but very cool and stylized in this book and each tale gets three short chapters.

For beginning readers there are a few ways to experience these stories in books:

The Machine in the Ghost may have sounded like a creepy title for a young children’s picture book so it was retitled Chopper Saves the Day, but it’s almost line-for-line the same exciting scene aboard Hera’s ship...and it comes with stickers!

Sabine’s skirmish with stormtroopers Art Attack will be released early next year as part of Disney's World of Reading Series. The Level 1 reader will be called, appropriately, Sabine’s Art Attack.

Zeb takes on a few stormtroopers himself in Entanglement and young readers can enjoy it on bookshelves now as the Level 1 World of Reading reader Zeb to the Rescue.
Finally, Ezra encounters a crashed TIE-fighter pilot in Property of Ezra Bridger, also now available as the somewhat unimaginatively-titled Level 2 reader Ezra and the Pilot.

For the most confident young readers, this same Ezra story also makes its way into Ryder Windham's junior novel Ezra's Gamble as an epilogue to that fun adventure.

-Chris @SWKidscast

Monday, September 8, 2014

Read, You Must: Star Wars Rebels: Head-to-Head

The latest in Scholastic’s imaginary combat series Star Wars Rebels: Head-to-Head is a fun and fully-illustrated book for detail-loving young fans. Like in previous titles Star Wars: Head-to-Head and Star Wars: Head-to-Head Tag Teams, frequent Lucasfilm author Pablo Hidalgo has created 26 “what if” scenarios pitting key characters from the upcoming Star Wars Rebels TV show against each other.

Each match-up describes a tense scene arising and then a profile of the two opposing combatants, be they humans, droids, aliens or even vehicles. The reader is left to use his or her imagination, weigh the stats and decide who may come out victorious. The final page lets the reader know how those predictions fare against the “experts’ picks”. 

The lack of combat shown (the cover has the most aggressive image present) could be frustrating to some considering the whole book is focused on conflict, but if you enjoy using your imagination that won’t be a problem. The book often feels like the start-up screen of a combat video game, just before the countdown to the actual fight. The “heroic matchups you must see to believe!” line on the front AND back covers is a little misleading but the book is indeed a great introduction to the new show.

Earlier in the series...
Even if you aren’t all that interested in the actual matchups or outcomes, this 64-page book is filled with details about each character, weapon or vehicle and reveals several characters not seen in any other Rebels book to date. It works as a wonderful companion book to DK’s Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide.

Two things make this book especially interesting. First, it’s arrived before the series premiere so it is possible that the battles described may show up in future Star Wars Rebels episodes. Second, the author is directly involved in the production of the show, so his “experts’ picks” on the last page may reveal actual outcomes of those scenarios. Before you jump to conclusions though, author Pablo Hidalgo is known for enjoying being secretive so it’s more likely he’s invented scenes similar to, but not quite the same as, ones from future episodes.

Just to be safe and not spoil anything for myself, I chose not to read the last page! I’ll go back to read it after Season 1 of Star Wars Rebels is finished.

By the way, Star Wars Rebels starts in just a few weeks on Disney XD and affiliate networks (like Family Channel here in Canada) so check your local listings!
-Chris @SWKidscast

Other recommended Star Wars books by Pablo Hidalgo:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Star Wars Kidscast Episode 11: Small Screen Themes

Star Wars Kidscast is back with a fun, new episode. With the recent release of the the theme music to the upcoming Star Wars Rebels series we thought it would be interesting to look back and listen to EVERY intro to every Star Wars TV show (so far). Which show had two different theme songs? Which show didn’t have a theme song at all? Find out here!

Also, we look at new releases on the bookshelf including Star Wars Workbooks, Star Wars Rebels tie-ins and Tom Angleberger’s latest (and final) Origami Yoda book: Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus.

All that and more on this episode of the Star Wars Kidscast!

Twitter @SWKidscast

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Read, You Must: These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For

The easiest way to describe Scholastic’s new LEGO Star Wars: These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For would be to call it a LEGO Star Wars take on the popular Where’s Waldo books (or Where’s Wally outside of North America). This “Search-and-Find” book puts you on the hunt, scouring 30 colourful pages of crowded Star Wars scenes looking for tiny, often hilarious, details or spotting differences from page to page.

IG-88's big scene!
The title and cover are correct: despite the close-up on C-3PO and R2-D2, those are not the droids you’re looking for. The title (famously spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi as he tricked stormtroopers in Mos Eisley) refers to the fact that in each picture you are hunting for the bounty hunter droid IG-88. Good thing they provide a reference picture and info because IG-88 only appears briefly in Episode V among the other bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to find the Millennium Falcon. It’s an obscure character to centre a 2014 children’s book around, but no matter, there’s plenty else to find once you’ve located the “evil droid”.

It should've been Where's WATTO!
Hey I found Wald! Oh, wrong guy?
The humour fits right in with the LEGO Star Wars TV shows and the more you scour these pictures the more funny bits there are to discover. Some of the gags are very clear while others are miniscule and almost hidden. 

Look hard enough at these detailed crowd scenes and you’ll spot gungans frozen in carbonite, wampas making snowmen, clone troopers reading Star Wars books and a LOT of pizza...from “Pizza Hutt”, of course. 

Even if you don’t want to put the effort into playing detective you can enjoy these action-packed, imaginative takes on famous Star Wars scenes.

LEGO Star Wars: These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For is a lot of fun and is recommended for ages 7 and up, but if your youngling is younger than that then I imagine they’d still get a lot of enjoyment out of this book. Perhaps any further such books could have a few more scenes. This one left me wanting more!

- Chris @SWKidscast

Monday, August 18, 2014

Read, You Must: Star Wars Rebels Ezra's Gamble

Before the television premiere of Star Wars Rebels this fall, read Star Wars Rebels Ezra's Gamble, a prelude story (or prequel) to the show focusing on the youngest new hero of the Star Wars universe, 14 year-old Ezra Bridger. Set between Episodes III and IV this story sets up Ezra before he meets the rest of the Rebels.

This 154 page adventure novel for confident young readers begins with Ezra living on the streets of Lothal, swiping and swindling things from wealthy visitors who have arrived to see the illegal gladiator fights. Without parents he is on his own to steal or sell the things he nabs to take care of himself in the Imperial-controlled city. This lifestyle leads him to encounter many shady characters including the vicious bounty hunter Bossk. Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans will remember Bossk from several episodes. Bossk has been around much longer than that though: he’s standing by Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader infamously says “No disintegrations”.

Bossk and his happy pals in The Empire Strikes Back
Ezra and Bossk form a dangerous partnership when a corrupt Imperial double-crosses Bossk. The title Ezra’s Gamble refers to his choice between trusting the cutthroat bounty hunter to pay him for his trouble or to walk away from the danger, and the possible reward. Does it pay off? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Ryder Windham has written many wonderful Star Wars books for young readers and it’s no surprise he was one of the first authors asked to work with Rebels' characters. His stories are exciting, quick-paced and never feel like they’ve been made “kid-friendly”. The characters have complications and conflict, their actions have consequences, and solutions rarely come without a cost. Windham’s books aren’t some kiddie version of Star Wars - they’re just good Star Wars with an awareness of younger readers interests and vocabularies.

So get to know Ezra Bridger in this fun, character-driven adventure from Lucasfilm Press/Disney Books. Ezra’s Gamble is a very safe bet. (Recommended ages 8-12)

- Chris @SWKidscast

Did you know? Gladiator fights aren’t new to Star Wars...

Scene from the original Clone Wars cartoon (2003)

Han must face Chewbacca back in this 1979 issue!

Here's a few other Star Wars Kidscast recommendations from author Ryder Windham:

Star Wars: The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader

Star Wars, Episode IV - A New Hope (Junior Novelization)

Fire Ring Race (Star Wars: Adventures in Hyperspace)