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Culture Children's Books
Little ones who hear older siblings talking about the Star Wars movie A New Hope will enjoy this remarkable board book. With single-word spreads and carefully chosen scenes recounting the movie’s plot, the book’s storytelling is both simple and sophisticated enough to grow with young readers. Also praiseworthy: the book’s visual style. The Wang brothers photograph handmade wool models to create their illustrations, giving the book a warm, cozy feel. Fans of their artistry may also appreciate their other Star Wars books and their series on classic literature. One caution: They depict some violence. But its cuddly presentation is unlikely to upset readers. (For ages 0-3.)
Darth Vader and Friends
This picture book shows young Luke and Leia Skywalker interacting with their difficult dad, Darth Vader, who finds that managing the evil Empire and training up little Jedis can be challenging. Readers follow Vader and his progeny through comic-style illustrations of play dates, math homework, and other poignant moments of parenthood. This latest in Brown’s series is premised on a silly concept, given Vader’s cruelty, but Star Wars fans will smile at Vader’s attempts to survive his own cruel taskmasters: two curious, whiny, energetic kids. (For ages 3-5.)
The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy
This retelling of Star Wars: A New Hope begins with Leia’s point of view, fending off stormtroopers on the Tantive IV. Then we move to Han’s perspective as he makes a deal on Tatooine, and finally, we end with Luke using the Force to guide him to the Death Star’s weakest link. Leia is the most fully developed of the three protagonists: an idealist with a chip on her shoulder and much to prove. This book is not a problem, but further books in the series venture down a New Age spiritual path. (For ages 10 and up.)
Star Wars: Lost Stars
Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell grew up dreaming of the day they would leave the planet Jelucan and become pilots in the Imperial Army. When Thane discovers the Empire’s corruption and joins the Rebellion, Ciena is torn between loyalty to the Empire and her childhood friend. Author Claudia Gray uses this conflict to rehearse the events of the original Star Wars trilogy. She writes engagingly of war’s fury, but ultimately the dark side proves too strong: Foul language and sexual content make the book inappropriate for her intended young adult audience.
Joshua Hays is a research assistant at the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion by day, but in his spare time he pastors kids in his Texas church, often using Star Wars analogies to jump-start interest in biblical topics. That experience led Hays to write A True Hope: Jedi Perils and the Way of Jesus, a book that attempts to filter the Star Wars films through a Christian worldview.
With a new Star Wars movie opening in theaters this December, Hays’ book is a timely resource to help families evaluate this influential franchise. In chapters like “Death Is a Natural Part of Life” and “Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes,” Hays demonstrates flaws in Jedi thinking and unpacks biblical ideas of reality. While Hays often goes deeper into the history of philosophy than general audiences will appreciate, he ably contrasts the hope of Star Wars stories with the “true hope” of Scripture. —E.W.