Top positive review
One person found this helpful
An Attractive Middle School Variation on Star Wars
on 17 April 2015
Think of this as a sort of graphic-chapter-book, and I mean that in a very good way.
Mr. Brown has taken practically every important aspect of the Star Wars canon, written it in a style that would be interesting for and accessible to an early reader, illustrated it with very clever and apt illustrations, and wrapped it all up as a "school days" adventure that features a realistic and engaging hero.
Roan is crushed when he is denied admission to Star Pilot Academy, and then confused and intimidated when he later receives an invitation to attend the more prestigious but less well known Jedi Academy. The other students at the Academy were tapped when they were much younger, so Roan has to adjust as the new kid and the latecomer. The story embraces all of the conventions of middle school fiction - Roan makes friends and enemies, encounters bullies, has some scary teachers and some teachers he really likes, deals with homesickness and adjusting to school. There is some budding romance. There are some intrigues, and lots of school based events, (a dance, a light saber tournament, a science fair, field trips, an election).
The genius here is that everything is based on Star Wars. Yoda is basically the headmaster of the Academy. The teachers are characters from the various movies. Field trips are to the sites of Star Wars episodes. Students all come from worlds whose names you recognize. Our hero, Roan, is from Tatooine and is basically a stand-in for a Luke Skywalker type character. There are lots of inside jokes and references, so that you have both an engaging story that is open to a Star Wars newbie and an immersive and sly Star Wars compendium for really rabid fans.
The book is written at a chapter book or slightly higher level, but because it is a graphic novel with collages, inserts, extra illustrations, letters home, vacation photos and the like it feels a little bit like a comic book. I could see this as being a really effective book for the purpose of moving a young reader from chapter books to more demanding fare.
For what it's worth, the Jedi training includes a lot of emphasis on concentration, calm, courage, honesty, loyalty and similar virtues. While there is no particular political or moral point being made by the book, (most of this comes from Yoda, and some of it seems tongue in cheek), and none of this is very heavy handed, it gives the book a little bit of old fashioned positive instruction that I found encouraging. The students are all decent and realistic, and Roan's awkwardness as the new kid is especially well sketched, so despite the Star Wars theme everything that happens could be relatable to a regular Earthbound kid reader.
So, if your young reader is a Star Wars fan, or just looking for an early reader that's a bit out of the ordinary, this could be a very nice choice.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.