Saturday, March 11, 2017

Read, and Listen, You Must: Star Wars Read-Along books!

"The circle is now complete!"

With the recent release of Revenge of the Sith, the Star Wars Read-Along Storybook and CD series has adaptions of all seven Star Wars “episodic” movies now available.

Each movie title is condensed into a 32-page storybook, full of brand-new illustrations, displayed nicely in the popular 8 x 8 picture book format. The accompanying CD is the same version of the story told through narration, sound effects, music and even dialogue from the movies. They are a lot of fun and a whole new way to experience the stories.

All of the books contain beautiful new artwork from the digital painting master Brian Rood. His art is also in many other recent Star Wars books, especially The Force Awakens storybook and Star Wars: The Original Trilogy Stories.

Released in a somewhat strange order, the new Star Wars Read-Along series has finally completed the “saga” (no plans for a Rogue One book set announced yet).  Starting in 2015 they were released in the same order the movies were: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Shortly after the film release of The Force Awakens, that movie’s Read-Along book set came out in spring 2016.

Starting in January 2017, the prequel trilogy editions were released, completing the series of the first seven “episode” movies, otherwise known as the Skywalker saga.

This isn’t the first series of Star Wars Read-Along books but is the first time for most the movies in this format. In the 1970’s and 80’s there were book-and-record read-along versions of the original trilogy, as well as several other Star Wars read-along books based on the Ewoks adventures or issues of the original Marvel comics. Many of these were later available with a cassette instead of a vinyl record.

Then in 1997 new adaptions of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were created to tie into better with the new material added for the "Special Edition" re-releases of the films. In 1999 a read-along book and CD set was also created for The Phantom Menace.

1997 version of A New Hope
With this series there are some re-used elements from the past, but most of it is new to enjoy. The first three “original trilogy” releases have the same text and audio as the 1997 versions (then illustrated with photos) though this appears to be the first time the audio is available on CD. However for this series The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens are all-new retellings of the films, with new art and new audio presentations.

The new adaption books are all written by Elizabeth Schaefer (author of Rey’s Story and The Force Awakens storybook) and the re-released ones were adapted by Randy Thornton. The authors pull off the tricky balance of keeping the story flowing and exciting while also keeping the vocabulary and content age-appropriate for young readers (or read-alongers?), only subtly acknowledging the more grizzly moments, especially in Revenge of the Sith.

Whether you sit down to enjoy these books along with the CD, or enjoy the CD and books separately (I happen to really enjoy just listening in the car), the Star Wars Read-Along books are a wonderful series and entertaining way for young fans to enjoy the stories again and again. Looking forward to a read-along The Last Jedi, hopefully soon!

Publisher’s Recommendation: Ages 3+

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