Is Your Kid Obsessed with Star Wars? Here’s What They Should Read Next.
by Tom Burns
Forget the flu or seasonal affective disorder. Do you know what I’m nervous about catching this winter? “Star Wars” fatigue.
With the December premiere of “The Rise of Skywalker” and the promise of a seemingly infinite number of “Star Wars” books, movies, and video games on our horizon, it makes one question exactly how much “Star Wars” is too much. (Is it possible to get completely sick of Han Solo? I’m sure we’ll find out in the coming months.) And it gets even trickier when you have a child, because when kids get obsessed with a certain topic — be it Hunger Games, Minecraft, or zombies — it can be hard to shift their focus to ANYTHING else.
But it CAN be done. “Star Wars” can actually be a wonderful gateway story to introduce your children to a whole new world of really excellent literary works about space, swordsmen, and everything else that makes the SW universe so much fun. If your kid has consumed all things “Star Wars” and doesn’t know where to go next, we’ve assembled this quick, age-appropriate guide to books that should delight your young Lucas fan AND finally introduce them to worlds that don’t involve Jedis or Wookies (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Pre-K (2 - 5)
Star Wars Little Golden Book Collection
Even the youngest readers can get in on the “Star Wars” fun with this special edition Little Golden Book, featuring (age-appropriate) retellings of seven SW films: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and—maybe their favorite?—The Force Awakens. Your little Jedi will love the illustrations that somehow manage to be both retro and modern, and you’ll love adding to their Little Golden collection.
Life on Mars
For space-obsessed fans of “Star Wars” and “The Martian,” the inimitable Jon Agee’s Life on Mars is a must-read. An intrepid young astronaut is so certain there’s life on Mars — and so determined to prove it — that he sets off on a solo mission to do just that. But as he leaves his space-boot-footprints all over the planet, he doesn’t spot a single Martian. Meanwhile, the reader sees what the astronaut doesn’t: a clever, sneaky Martian lurking in the background, inspiring loads of laughs and delight.
Growing Reader (6 - 8)
Boy and Bot
After watching “A New Hope” for the first time, what kid wouldn’t want their very own robot to accompany them on trips to school (or to pick up power converters at Tosche Station)? If your child loves all things DROID, this sweet, clever picture book — all about a robot and a boy trying to fix each other — should be right up their alley.
The Kid from Planet Z Series
What if our favorite “Star Wars” characters could spend a little time on Earth? Zeke Zander — AKA The Kid from Planet Z — has found himself in that precarious situation after his spaceship took an unexpected crash landing with Zeke and his talking cat, Zeus, on board. The pair do their best to blend in among the earthlings at home and school, which is easier said than done, especially when catching a cold means Zeke’s eyes leak green goo. It’s a charming, funny romp for beginning chapter book readers.
Zita the Spacegirl
There aren’t many really great science fiction stories for younger readers. Fantasy? Yes. Sci-fi? Not so much. Which is one of many reasons why the Zita graphic novels are so special. If your kid’s only exposure to sci-fi so far has been “Star Wars,” they will absolutely adore the tales of Hatke’s space heroine — a normal kid who jumps through a dimensional portal to a galaxy far, far away to save her best friend. Hatke’s charismatic alien characters are the real stars of the series, invoking the spirit of George Lucas and Jim Henson in their weirdness, depth, and humor.
Tween (9 - 12)
Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat Series
Imagine a Sith Lord, but it’s a cat. Now imagine said Sith-cat — formerly the evil emperor of the planet Lyttyrboks, named Klawde — has been exiled to a corner of the universe, otherwise known as Elba, Oregon. Also exiled in Elba is a boy named Raj, who’s reluctantly moved across the country with his mother. Klawde and Raj team up to form an unlikely friendship full of hilarity, interstellar plans, and the sort of sharp wit that only a true High Commander cat can deliver.
Project: Terra Series
The heroines popping up in the “Star Wars” universe and other intergalactic adventures — Rey in The Force Awakens, Gomora in Guardians of the Galaxy — are changing the scene in much-needed ways. Joining their ranks is Elara Adele Vaughn, a planetary designer in training at the Seven Systems School of Terraforming Sciences and Arts. With monster run-ins and alien roommates, life at school is wilder than Elara expected, but she’s up to the challenge in this action-packed series based on the real-life science of terraforming.
Nicola Berry Series
The author of Big Little Lies turns her talents for high-stakes plot twists and a tight cast of characters to the middle grade sci-fi realm in the thrillingly bold Nicola Berry series. In Book 1, Nicola and her friends try to convince the pompous Princess Petronella not to turn Earth into a garbage dump; in Book 2, they travel to planet Shobble and peek beneath the glittery, rainbow veneer to root out trouble; and in Book 3, they attempt making peace between a pair of planets that couldn’t be more different (think volcanoes versus poets).
If your kid loves quoting Han Solo’s “I'll take a blaster over a hokey religion any day” line, this middle-grade novel might be the book for them. Young Joey Harker discovers that there are millions of different dimensions in the universe — each one with a different version of Earth — and that they’re all caught in the crosshairs of a war between the forces of science and magic. Who can stop the war? What about an army of alternate Joey Harkers from the various alternate worlds? The crazy, magic-infused sci-fi tropes will remind you of the Force, and there are two sequels to give it that whole trilogy feel.
Get excited for a brand-new series that epitomizes the space opera genre, created by the authors of the bestselling Illuminae Files. In the year 2380, Tyler Jones — a newly minted cadet of Aurora Academy — assembles a ragtag squad of misfits, not unlike the rogue and unlikely team of young Han Solo and Chewbacca. But Tyler and his unconventional crew might have a long-brewing, galaxy-wide war on their hands after rescuing Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, a mysterious girl who’s been frozen in cryo-sleep for two hundred years.
The Nyxia Triad
When Detroit teenager Emmett Atwater is recruited by the Babel Corporation to board a lightship and head for planet Eden, he says yes with zero qualms: the paycheck in question is enough to take care of his family forever. But Babel is full of secrets and questionable motives — they want their new recruits to mine an incredibly valuable resource called Nyxia and avoid making waves with Eden’s indigenous population, the Adamites. Reminiscent of "Avatar" and the revolts at the heart of “Star Wars,” this trilogy can’t be missed.
Yes, you’ve heard of it before. Yes, the David Lynch movie was bad. Yes, it’s long, esoteric, and the sequels aren’t nearly as good as the original. But, all that aside, if the “Star Wars” movies have made your teenager fall in love with the sprawling space opera, eventually they’re going to HAVE to read Frank Herbert’s most famous creation. The story of centuries-old political intrigue — about warring factions battling over control of the extremely valuable planet Arrakis (among SO many other plot lines) — is a genre classic and remains a wonderful introduction to the larger, more complex world of science fiction just beyond the “Star Wars” trilogies.
If your kid loved “Star Wars” but wanted it to get even more extreme — think of George Lucas turned up to 11 “Spinal Tap”-style — the end result would probably be a lot like Deathstalker. It’s an extremely over-the-top, campy, self-aware ode to the same space serials that inspired the original SW trilogy. It follows Owen Deathstalker, a quiet academic from a long-line of warriors, who has to go on the run and become a space hero once he’s declared a criminal by the evil galactic Empire. It’s much sillier, self-aware, and satirical than Lucas’s works, but it’s undeniably fun and perfect for those who preferred the lighter, more swashbuckling moments of the SW films.