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Read On, Young Padawan: Superb Star Wars Books for Kids of All Ages

by Tom Burns

Read On Young Padawan

A while back, I spent a few brief days being known to the world as the “Princess Leia Dad.” My 7-year-old daughter and I dressed up as Han Solo and Princess Leia for Halloween — at her request, she was Han and I was Leia — and little did I know that the pictures of our costumes would go minor-league viral, placing me on national TV squeezed into a makeshift Carrie Fisher dress.

What did I learn from that experience? 1). People love seeing pudgy dads in dresses, and 2). People LOVE “Star Wars.” Which you already know. With the release of “The Force Awakens” and the prospect of multiple new “Star Wars” movies on the horizon, it’s impossible to deny how excited fans are about returning to the world of George Lucas’s most famous creation.

And, even if you’re not a SW fan, it’s hard to argue with the impact “Star Wars” has had on our cultural mythology. For better or worse, “Star Wars” has become one of those foundational stories, the kind that gets passed down from generation to generation. (It even has its own holiday — May 4th has become the official “Star Wars Day,” thanks to the better-than-average pun “May the 4th Be With You.”)

If you want to help your kids awaken the Force, or just introduce them to the literary side of “Star Wars,” here are some fantastic books that should delight padawans of all ages.

Pre-K:
“Star Wars” has become so ubiquitous that it often gets on a kid’s radar LONG before they’re ready to actually see the movies. So, what’s a parent Star-Wars-A-Visual-Dictionaryto do when their 3-year-old wants to know everything there is to know about Lando Calrissian? Thankfully, DK publishes a huge catalog of “nonfiction” titles in their “Star Wars” series that catalog the minutiae of George Lucas’s universe for eager young readers — books like Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, Star Wars in 100 Scenes, and their long-line of age-appropriate “Star Wars” early readers.

If you’re looking for something more suited for bedtime reading, it’s hard not to love cartoonist Jeffrey Brown’s goodnight-darth-vadersublime picture books like Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess, and Goodnight Darth Vader, in which Brown brings a surprising amount of depth and laugh-out-loud humor to his portrayal of Lord Vader as an exasperated parental figure.
Star-Wars-Little-Golden-Books

Or try the Star Wars Little Golden Book Library, a fantastic six-book retelling of the entire movie series — told in the classic Little Golden Book format — that acts as an ideal introduction to the SW universe for even the littlest Jedis.

Growing Reader:
For grade school kids, there are several great “Star Wars” Adventures-of-Luke-Skywalker-Jedi-Knighttitles. In terms of sheer visual scope, it’s hard to do better than The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, a beautiful picture book, authored by Spiderwick Chronicles co-creator Tony DiTerlizzi, which retells Luke’s heroic journey using paintings created by the original “Star Wars” conceptual designer, Ralph McQuarrie.

If your kid loves graphic novels (and awesome action sequences), there’s the Clone Wars Adventures anthology series, which collects short comic Jedi-Academybook stories about the Jedis at war, or, if they enjoy Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, they should definitely dig Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy, all about young Roan Novachez who keeps a journal about his anxious and exhilarating first years at Jedi training school. (Taking classes from Yoda can make a kid nervous.)

Tween/Teen:
Middle grade readers should find a lot to enjoy about the “Journey to The Force Awakens” illustrated novels, a series that collects “untold” stories of Luke, Smugglers-RunHan, and Leia from the original trilogy. Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo Adventure, authored by comic book icon Greg Rucka, is particularly fun.

Another awesome way to prepare your eager tween reader for the new “Star Wars” trilogy is by reintroducing them to the original trilogy via some great authors and stories. Disney Lucasfilm Press commissioned three new novels, authored by some of the biggest names in young adult lit, which retell the core stories of the first “Star Wars” movies The-Princess-The-Scoundrel-and-The-Farm-Boyin exciting new ways. The inaugural volume, Star Wars: A New Hope — The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Bracken, focuses on the backstories and inner drama surrounding the trio of core characters from the original film – Luke, Leia, and Han. It was followed by new books that expand on the plots from “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” as well, written by fan-favorite authors Adam Gidwitz and Tom Angleberger, respectively.

There are hundreds of novels in the “Star Wars” “Expanded Universe,” but, for older kids, few are as beloved as A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy — starting with The Paradise Snare — which follows the young scoundrel from his days as a Heir-to-the-Empire19-year-old pirate’s apprentice to his first meeting with Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Mos Eisley cantina. And, if your teen can’t wait for Episode VII later this year, they might enjoy Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy — beginning with Heir to the Empire — which, until the announcement of the new “Star Wars” movies, was long regarded as the definitive “What happened after ‘Return of the Jedi’” story.

 

What other great “Star Wars” reads would you add to this list?

 

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