Monday, May 9, 2016

Rey: Putting the Puzzle Together

The Force Awakens gave Star Wars fans PLENTY to enjoy but also left a lot of questions unanswered. The mystery of Rey especially has captivated fans and been the subject of much debate. We know she says she's waiting for her family, but who exactly? And why is she there without them?

While we await answers to come in Episode 8 (let's hope!) here’s a look what books to read to piece together what is available to know about Rey so far. (All of these titles are suitable for middle-grade readers.)

In Before the Awakening, nearly a third of the book is a story starring Rey shortly before The Force Awakens. Readers will get a good feel of how difficult day-to-day life is for a young scavenger on Jakku. This story emphasizes the challenges of Rey having no friends to trust and no one to turn to. She truly is on her own.  The story also details how it is that Rey knows so much about flying starships even though she’s never left the planet. 

In a different way Rey’s Survival Guide covers a lot of the same information found in Before the Awakening – with a lot more little nuggets and facts to discover. Instead of a story in chapters, here the details are written as notes and comments like a scrapbook or journal. This one has plenty of illustrations too. It also leads directly into the events of The Force Awakens.

Every young Star Wars fan should read The Force Awakens Junior Novelization too. If you’ve seen the movie there’s no big surprises here, but it's a very entertaining way to re-experience the story. Above that, there is an extra scene of Rey! In the movie as Rey meets BB-8 she tells the droid “in the morning, you go”. The next time they’re on screen it’s already morning. In this book readers get a short scene of Rey and BB-8’s one night together before meeting Finn.

For some reason this little scene is not in Rey’s Story, a complete re-telling of The Force Awakens entirely focused on Rey. Readers don’t really get into Rey’s thoughts but are alongside her for the adventure. If you want to focus on Rey's story, well, Rey's Story is the best place to turn to!

If you prefer your information in a more get-to-the-point way, check out The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary and the newly updated Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. Both terrific books contain details about Rey and life on Jakku.

Yes that’s a lot of reading, but it’s certainly entertaining reading! Enjoy all these titles and hopefully more to come as the mystery of Rey becomes revealed!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Read, You Must: Star Wars Character Encyclopedia

On bookshelves now from DK Publishing is the newly updated Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. The cover should make it clear that this edition contains plenty of information on characters and situations from The Force Awakens.

The Star Wars Character Encyclopedia gives one full-colour, individual fact-sheet for over 220 characters. Whether they are pivotal to the Star Wars Saga like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, or very obscure “blink-and-you-miss-it” background aliens like Sarco Plank or Bobbajo, everyone and everything is equal here.

For this edition by Simon Beecroft and Pablo Hidalgo there are over 35 completely new characters profiled. Many more have been updated like General Leia Organa and Han Solo too. Even characters not appearing in The Force Awakens have been updated (like Jango Fett) to reflect new information or clarifications.

There are many pages that are nearly identical in the previous edition, but there are so many new characters here that this book could almost be called Star Wars Character Encyclopedia Volume II

No single book could possibly include EVERY Star Wars character, and this one sticks to only on those from the movies. Characters only seen in The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels do not appear in here (The Clone Wars has its own character encyclopedia). Despite it being very clear on the cover this is a The Force Awakens-focused update there is one notable character not here – the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke. Why no Snoke? It would probably be a frustratingly blank page!

Will there be a Rogue One version coming soon? Hard to tell but that movie certainly will introduce many new, exciting characters to Star Wars.

The Star Wars Character Encyclopedia is for fans wanting a quick overview of many characters in an easily accessible format. If you’re looking for in-depth details, you’ll want to dive into Ultimate Star Wars, The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary and other great reference books. (Publisher's Recommendation: Ages 7 - 10 years)

Also still available & full of great info

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One Teaser Trailer!

Coming this December to our Galaxy (specifically our movie theatres) is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!

Today the first teaser trailer was released and it's something spectacular!

Obviously it's just a tease of a few scenes from the movie and there's plenty more to come, but this trailer coming only a few months after The Force Awakens' release, the timeline and setting for Rogue One may be a little confusing.

Here's a few questions you may have after watching the trailer. If you have more questions feel free to share them in the comments below!

Is this the sequel to The Force Awakens? Where's Rey, Finn or BB-8?

No. This movie is set between Episodes 3 and 4, shortly before Episode 4. These are the rebels learning about the FIRST Death Star. Luke, Leia and Han haven't met yet and Rey an Finn are years away from being born. BB-8 has probably not yet been made.

Episode 8 (no title yet for The Force Awakens' sequel) is still filming and will come out December 2017.

Rogue One is actually very close to the same time that Star Wars: Rebels happens. It's certainly possible there will be some connections there.

Why am I wearing an Imperial uniform? Wait and see!
Who is the main woman?
After watching the trailer you know exactly as much as anyone else does. She's mysterious and tough and her name is Jyn Erso. She's played by actress Felicity Jones who typically performs in dramatic films (the ones grown-ups like) but you may have seen her in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Where's Darth Vader?
It hasn't been confirmed either way if Vader will be in Rogue One, but he could be. At this point in the overall Star Wars story, Darth Vader is alive and terrifying the galaxy. For that matter, we could also see Emperor Palpatine, Grand Moff Tarkin and more familiar baddies!

The Mysterious Figure aka Back in Black!
But isn't that Vader with the long, black cape?
Maybe. Or maybe it's the Emperor, or maybe it's someone we don't know yet. Oh no...maybe it's Snoke??

Who are all these other guys?
We really don't know at this point. We know they look tough and ready to fight. Hopefully they're good guys! Other than that it's all a mystery.

Is that the same lady from Return of the Jedi? The super-serious one?
Yep. Younger actress, but same character: Mon Mothma. She's a strong leader in the Rebellion and it's great to see her again after all these years!

Mon Mothma. Maybe she'll get to smile just once?
For an excellent breakdown of each scene, check out this article on

Obviously there are many more questions than answers at this point. It sure is fun to guess though, huh? 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Read, You Must: Star Wars Aliens Volume I

Why is Unkar Plutt so grouchy? Who are those two guys that Finn almost leaves with? Who’s that little guy waiting behind Rey in Niima Outpost? A new middle-grade book from Disney-Lucasfilm Press gives us a much closer look at many of the interesting-looking new alien characters from The Force Awakens.

Somehow this collection of short stories got the longest title of any book in recent memory. The full title is: Star Wars: Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away ALIENS Volume I (we’ll just call it ALIENS Vol. I for short here). The inclusion of “Volume I” is interesting and suggests more to come, hopefully soon! 

In 346 pages, author Landry Q. Walker gives us six stories focusing on six different alien characters. Each tale also has a great painting by Tyler Scarlet. Two of the stories are brand new while the other four have been available only as eBooks until this hardcover release.

One of the eBook editions

The stories vary in length, tone and genre. Walker really has fun jumping around from Unkar Plutt’s cyber-romance/heist thriller to a crime story/cooking show in Maz Kanata’s castle. Swashbuckling pirates and even mad scientists are all a part of the fun. Crime and criminals is the focus here in this collection of “scum and villainy”. There are a lot of “no-good, double-crossing swindlers” here, as Lando Calrissian might put it.

The stories are not connected at all so they can be enjoyed in any order. They seem to take place before the events of The Force Awakens as Niima Outpost and Maz Kananta’s castle are still intact.

The invisible Constable Zuvio
Unfortunately the first story is focused on Constable Zuvio, a character becoming infamous for – despite being made into several toys and featuring in other books – doesn’t seem to be in The Force Awakens at all unless you have an eagle-eye and can freeze your Blu-ray at exactly the right moment. It may be of little interest to read this adventure of a character essentially not in the movie. However Zuvio’s tale is an engaging detective story with a lot of western feel. Columbo in the wild west…in space.

Yo yo Bobbajo!
For A New Hope fans, the most intriguing story is Bobbajo’s All Creatures Great and Small – a “tall tale” of his imprisonment with his tiny creatures, on the first Death Star, coincidentally at the same time a certain famous Princess meets two men and a wookiee. The story even suggests that Bobbajo’s creatures played a vital part in the destruction of the Death Star, though Bobbajo is apparently known for stories that are often wildly exaggerated.

Also of interest to longtime Star Wars fans – and this appears to be the first time in the new “canon” (official Star Wars timeline) – is mention of the character of Gormaanda from the infamously bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special in the story A Recipe for Death.

Celebrity Chef Gormaanda
ALIENS Vol. I ends with the longest and most exciting tale: The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku, an adventure of piracy and plundering that escalates to a bigger and bigger clash between rival pirate gangs. The story also has some wonderful connections to the Clone Wars TV series.

Confident young readers will enjoy the variety of stories here and insights into characters only briefly seen on screen. Older Star Wars fans can certainly enjoy these tales too as they are not specifically “children’s” stories – no more than the rest of Star Wars. One story, The Face of Evil, may be a little scary for very young readers.

With so many other background characters and interesting aliens in The Force Awakens to learn about, this book will leave you looking forward to Aliens Vol. II!
Publisher's Recommendation: Ages 8+
For more short stories set around The Force Awakens characters read Before the Awakening.

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