Stack Overflow: Star Wars

Stack Overflow: 9 ‘Star Wars’ Books

Books Columns Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow: Star WarsAh, Star Wars fever. We used to have sporadic outbreaks, sometimes years apart, but then it became a seasonal thing. Nowadays, it’s more of a low-grade chronic state, because you’re never more than a few months away from another new Star Wars release. Basically what I’m saying is: it’s always a good time to enjoy Star Wars books. Here’s a mix of options for kids and adults.

Star Wars Block

Star Wars Block: Over 100 Words Every Fan Should Know

Abrams Appleseed has a number of “Block Books,” each of which is a chunky hardcover book with board book pages, so thick that it’s more almost block-shaped than book-shaped. The Star Wars Block spans the current Star Wars universe, from Tatooine and Endor to Starkiller Base and Jakku, with a host of characters, ships, locations, and technology all illustrated in a cute, kid-friendly style by Peskimo. The book includes pages with shaped edges, where a character’s silhouette forms the edge of a page. It’s a great way to train your younglings, so they can tell you the names of all those obscure characters that you’d have to Google otherwise.

Chewie and the Porgs

Chewie and the Porgs by Kevin Schinick, illustrated by Fiona Hsieh

If you’ve seen The Last Jedi, you know that Chewbacca doesn’t immediately take to the porgs—the little bird-like creatures that live all over the island on Ahch-To. But in the movie you mostly just see Rey training with Luke; you don’t know what’s going on with Chewie as he waits with the Millennium Falcon. Well, thanks to this picture book, now you can find out. Chewie is hungry, and is trying to figure out what to eat. The porgs are also hungry, and they keep getting in the way. Can they figure out a mutually agreeable solution? (Spoiler alert: yes. It’s a picture book for kids.) It’s a cute, if silly, story about porgs that conveniently leaves out that one scene from the movie.

Rose and Finn's Secret Mission

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Rose and Finn’s Secret Mission by Ella Patrick, illustrated by Brian Rood

This is an easy reader book based on the Canto Bight subplot from The Last Jedi, focusing on Rose and Finn’s mission. It has a little more text than the typical picture book but isn’t quite chapter book length yet, and it just retells that portion of the movie (and ends on a positive note). The illustrations look almost like screenshots from the film, but with a slightly painted look to them. Also included are two pages of foil stickers featuring various characters and logos. This book isn’t quite as fun as Chewie and the Porgs but if your kid is more interested in replaying actual scenes from the film, it’s a pretty straightforward adaptation.

The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear

The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear! by Tom Angleberger

This kid’s novel by Origami Yoda creator Tom Angleberger follows Chewbacca as he goes on what was supposed to be a simple mission that turns out to be much more complicated. Chewie is matched up with Mayv (a young bounty hunter/librarian/thief) and an oddly independent cargo droid going by the name K-2SB … who may look kind of familiar to anyone who has seen Rogue One. The mission takes the trio (along with a pile of tooka cats) to the forest planet Ushruu, which gives Chewie and Mayv an uneasy feeling as soon as they approach. They’re here to recover a book of some sort, and all they know is that the last group that attempted it didn’t make it back.

It’s a fun, adventurous tale, filled with plenty of Wookiee growls and roars (some of which Angleberger translates for our benefit), as well as little asides to the reader. There are strange beasts, dangerous chases, and a bit of double-crossing. It’s great to see Chewie get to spend a little more time in the spotlight sans Han. Mayv’s story is great, too, and K-2 is quite entertaining. There are a few illustrations throughout by Andie Tong, in a somewhat cartoony style.

Choose Your Destiny: A Han & Chewie Adventure

Choose Your Destiny: A Han & Chewie Adventure by Cavan Scott

Han & Chewie are on their way to deliver some stolen goods to Jabba the Hutt—but things aren’t working out the way they hoped. For one, there’s an Imperial blockade between them and their destination. Should they try to blast their way through? Or use some stolen ID codes? You get to decide!

This story presents lots of choices for you to make as Han & Chewie try to get past the blockade, crash the Millennium Falcon, and encounter mercenaries and other unsavory characters. There are lots of endings, most of them not so happy, so you can re-read and make different decisions as you go. Unlike the old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, in some cases you aren’t just choosing what Han & Chewie do, but whether something works: whether the blaster cannons work, or whether another character believes Han’s lie, and so on. Those decisions seem a little strange, but they do lead to some fun consequences. I also noticed that there were lots of references to Han’s past that will be familiar if you’ve seen the Solo film, but your kids don’t need that background to enjoy the book.

The Star Wars Cookbook: BB-ATE

The Star Wars Cookbook: BB-ATE by Lara Starr

If only Chewie had this book when he landed on Ahch-To, maybe he wouldn’t have been so frustrated with the porgs. This cookbook is filled with various snacks, breakfast items, sandwiches, and more, many with funny (punny) names like Han Soloatmeal and Reysin Bread. The photographs by Matthew Carden feature the foods posed with action figures, and they’re pretty great.

The recipes are all fairly simple, usually a single page, so you can probably recruit your kids to help with some of them. Some are are fairly standard recipes, just with a bit of a Star Wars twist (or title), like the hard-boiled eggs that are just decorated with stormtrooper faces. The spiral binding lets the book lay flat for easy reference while cooking.

Star Wars Origami

Star Wars Origami by Karol Kafarski

This origami book includes 10 models: BB-8, a command shuttle, the Finalizer, Rey’s speeder, a TIE Fighter, X-wing, Luggabeast, a Stormtrooper transporter, the Resistance transporter, and the Millennium Falcon. After a brief section explaining symbols and different types of folds, each model has a page with facts about the ship/beast/droid and then several pages of instructions. The back of the book includes 60 sheets of pre-printed origami paper (6 sheets per model for most of the models, plus 2 sheets for an alternate color X-wing), and the entire book is a sort of paper pad so that you can easily remove sheets.

The sheets are a nice, hefty size: 11.5″ on a side, so they’re much larger than typical origami books I’ve seen. Each sheet has various patterns printed on both front and back that include lines to help guide you for folding and that will contribute to the finished look of the model. My caveat is that these are fairly challenging models that are best for experienced folders—I had to call my origami-loving daughter for help on several occasions. Most of the models have over 100 steps to completion, and since the instructions use photographs, sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s going on because of how busy the printed pattern is on the paper. The finished models are quite impressive, though I’m still working on them myself!

The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story by Phil Szostak

The latest Star Wars film, Solo, has gotten mixed reviews, but the “art of” books are always a blast to look at even if the film left you unimpressed. Phil Szostak, a creative art manager for Lucasfilm, also provided the text for The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (reviewed here), but this time around the chapter headings and narratives line up a little better. I’m always intrigued by the production notes, like the fact that planning for Solo began back in 2012, at the same time as the new trilogy and Rogue One. The story went through several changes—where and how Han and Chewie met, for instance—and this book chronicles a lot of ideas that never made it to the screen.

I love seeing pages that are filled with sketches, where artists are brainstorming things like vehicles, or Enfys Nest’s helmet, or even character designs. At one point Dryden Vos (played by Paul Bettany in the film) was an alien, perhaps a Lasat like Zeb in Star Wars Rebels. Beckett’s costuming was changed when Woody Harrelson was cast, because he doesn’t wear fur or leather. At one point there was a giant tunneling creature that chased Han and Chewie in the Kessel mines, like a living version of the Underminer’s drilling machine. I love seeing these little bits and pieces of how the movie and the look evolved over time. The one thing I always find myself wishing is that there were some frames from the final film included for comparison.

One fun fact is that the Solo team pulled a lot of inspiration for the look of the movie from the 1970s—both in the look of sci-fi films that were made at the time, and real-world trends of the ’70s—for things like Han’s speeder or Lando’s outfits, and so on. There are even some funny images of the Millennium Falcon with a flames paint job or the Trans Am Firebird logo on it. The book is mostly about the artwork, with quotations from various people involved in the film as the captions, but Szostak’s text introduces each chapter and gives a little more information about the making of the movie.

The Moviemaking Art of Star Wars: Creatures + Aliens

The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures + Aliens by Mark Salisbury

If you love those behind-the-scenes extras about making movies, this book is amazing. Star Wars is filled with all sorts of creatures and aliens, brought to life through costumes, puppetry, and computer graphics, and this book digs into how it was all done. Some of the methods I already knew about, but I did learn lots of new things while reading through this volume. It uses a combination of concept sketches, photographs, and films from stills to show the process from idea to execution, which is fantastic. There are flaps to lift and fold-out segments, and the whole book is organized by movie, ordered chronologically, from A New Hope all the way to Solo.

Most creatures get just one or two pages, but there are some that go into greater detail (like Chewbacca, for instance). Each creature’s entry lists the movies in which it appears, and the type of methods used. The book also has some sidebars about things like Ben Burtt’s sound design magic or Doug Chiang’s rules for design. Also noted are the places in which practical effects like puppets and costumes were replaced by CGI versions in later releases, but there’s not much mention of the critical reception of the prequel trilogy or Jar Jar Binks, only that he was the first completely CGI character in the Star Wars universe. Though I suppose it’s telling that Revenge of the Sith only warrants two pages. And despite the note that Solo has more creatures than any other Star Wars film to date, it also gets a fairly short section, with just Rio and Proxima making appearances. The book also lacks any mention of droids—I guess they are neither creatures nor aliens, so I hope they get their own volume in the future.

For me, the best parts of the book focused on the original trilogy, which had a lot more practical effects, before computer generated imagery became more common and realistic. For the new trilogy, both Rian Johnson and J. J. Abrams wanted to return to more practical effects as well, but it felt that there wasn’t quite as much documentation of the various techniques used as there were in the original films.

My Current Stack

Aside from the Star Wars books, I’ve continued making my way through even more comics (including the really fun Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and the brief but informative A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by ARchie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson), and I finally got around to starting Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (which Jim Kelly reviewed last year). It’s been a fun read so far!

Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.

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