Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reader's Diary #1083- Jeffrey Brown: Star Wars Jedi Academy

Like most people (not my wife) in my generation, I watched the original Star Wars movies as a kid. I enjoyed them, but was never fanatical. I had a few of the toys, which I took out of the honest-to-god packages, and brace yourself... played with. When the next 3 movies came along, like most people I didn't really like Jar-Jar, but I wasn't out for George Lucas' blood. I thought they were okay (and come on, anyone who says the acting in the originals was any better is suffering from nostalgic delusions).

But then my son was born, just before I started getting into graphic novels, and I've been embracing my inner nerd ever since. (By the way, we watched the Clone Wars tv series together and it wasn't half bad either.)

So, when I first heard of Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars Jedi Academy, I just knew I he had to get it as a Christmas present. (It paled compared to his gift from Santa: A LEGO Death Star!) And it was our first read aloud together in 2014. (By the way, comics and graphic novels are awesome for read alouds and group reads. You just assign people characters, it becomes a sort of play, and everyone's following perfectly along.)

I'm not the first to make the comparison, but it reminded me somewhat of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That's not a bad thing. If you'll remember my thoughts on that book, I said it was hilarious. Plus, I think the Star Wars theme and Brown's writing and artwork, make it different enough to not be considered a rip off. I also think Roan (the SWJA protagonist) is somewhat sweeter and more naive than the wimpy one, Greg Heffley (not that both aren't likeable).

Star Wars Jedi Academy deal with middle school problems, but lightly. There's bullying, girls, and of course, confidence and identity issues, but as with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it's all perhaps too innocent to appeal to most real middle-schoolers. My 8 year old son loved it. Heck, I loved it. Perhaps I'm being too cynical, maybe middle schoolers aren't too "cool" to enjoy it.

It's a very amusing book. Yoda, a teacher of the Academy, is cryptic of course, but hilariously goofy and enigmatic. The wookie gym teacher grunts and moans incomprehensibly, followed up with unreadable scrawls as her report card comments. And in a bit that reminded me of the Flintstones (or the Jetsons, probably more accurately, if I ever watched it), all of our world's inventions have a "holo-" prefix added to make it more Star Warsy (email is holomail, chess is holochess, a cellphone is a holophone, and so on). It's cute now, but we'll see if it doesn't get old in the inevitable sequels.


Shooting Stars Mag said...

I've seen this one around but I hadn't read a review of it, so thanks! I think it sounds really fun. I'll admit it though, I haven't watched any of the original Star Wars. I need too!

-Lauren from shootingstarsmag

John Mutford said...

Lauren: You could certainly enjoy this book without having seen the originals. Then, I think the more inside knowledge you have, the more subtle jokes you'd pick up on.

MickeyDeans said...

as a big star wars fan, this sounds like a fun read. Haven't seen diary of a wimpy kid, but could still imagine the kind of story this would have.