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Middle Grade Monday: Book Fair and Return of the Padawan!

It’s that time of year again! Well, at least it’s that time of year for those of us who’ve already been back in school for six weeks, but who’s counting? Today was the first day of Book Fair for us and sales were brisker than normal. I had time to browse with the studetns and see what was new on the fair, I was happy to find some titles we’ve recently reviewed here at TLT.

The first title I recognized was Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s Iron Trial, which I briefly reviewed. And loved. I’m so seldom surprised by the ending of a book these days – it’s glorious. I also found copies of The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm. You can read Karen’s review here. (She beat me to it.) I was excitedly promoting these to students and parents all day.

Finally, I was excited to see copies of Return of the Padawan, the second in Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars: Jedi Academy series. Roan is back for his second year of Jedi Academy after a summer at home. He’s excited to see his friends Pasha, Egon, and Bill – as well as Gaiana, his first crush. This year is going to be epically special, as his class begins Jedi Pilot training. If you read the first book in the series, Jedi Academy, you’ll remember that Roan was planning on following his father and brother’s footsteps and attending pilot school. Jedi Pilot training is very important to him. You’d think he’d take it more seriously that he does.

The instructor, Mr. Garfield, insists that they learn the Galactic Pilot General Instruction Flight Training Manual and Workbook by heart. Roan is less than enthusiastic. He manages to blow up the flight simulator on his first test. Oops!
It’s a growing year for Roan as he does poorly in his most important class. He also alienates most of his friends and falls in with the group of student who previously bullied him. Even when he tries to do the right thing, he gets blamed by all sides! Poor Roan.

This illustrated what I love best about this series, though. The world of Jedi Academy, including the bizarre mix of future and outdated technology, so true to the original Star Wars movie trilogy, is fully and faithfully realized. Roan both builds a functional light saber duel training android and keeps a handwritten journal. But within it all is a story of a boy learning to navigate his way through relationships and responsibilities. Each reader can come away having enjoyed a narrative set in the Star Wars universe and a simultaneously increased understanding of themselves and empathy towards others.

Highly recommended for your readers who love alternative format novels. These are a delightful mix of journal entries, cartoons, announcement notices, news articles, etc., almost all in a ‘handwritten’ style. In fact, my only complaint is that my old eyes have some difficulty reading the different styles of writing. I’m sure it won’t pose any problems for the intended audience.