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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 The world of Jedi Academy, including the bizarre mix of future and outdated technology, so true to the original Star Wars movie trilogy, is fully and faithfully realized.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.

MG Book Review: Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

So much fun! As a casual enthusiast of Star Wars, I was fully engaged by this story of Roan, a young boy from Tatooine (sound familiar?) Roan comes from a family with a long history of serving as Star Pilots. His Father and Grandfather are Star Pilots, and his older brother is attending Pilot Academy. At the beginning of the novel, Roan is understandably disappointed to receive a rejection letter from Pilot Academy Middle School. It’s all he’s ever dreamt of – becoming a Star Pilot in the family tradition. What will he do now? His only alternative is Tatooine Agriculture Academy. He will be stuck on Tatooine forever, as a farmer.

More Star Wars fun here and here.

Mysteriously, just before he leaves to attend TAA, Roan receives a letter inviting him to attend Jedi Academy, on the strength of Master Yoda’s recommendation. What follows is Roan’s immersion into an almost foreign world. All of the other Jedi Academy students have been there since toddler-hood, why has Roan only now been accepted? We see the world of Star Wards through Roan’s eyes, visiting familiar places like Kashyyyk (home world of the Wookies), and learning more about what early training of the Jedi involved. Roan is a typical, slightly confused, moderately sarcastic, very funny and engaging middle schooler. This title is an excellent introduction to both the world of the Jedi and the world of Middle School. I would highly recommend its purchase for 3rd through 8th grades.

On a side note, this is an ‘alternative format’ novel, written as a mixture of journal entries, cartoons, letters, and other ephemera. Anywhere that this type of novel is popular (almost everywhere) would be best served by purchasing multiple copies.  Check out more great alternate format reads for Middle Grade readers here.

Kicky Says:  So, the tween got a copy of the book and read it 3 times in 2 days.  That’s right, I sat there and watched her finish the book just to open the front cover and start it all over again.  She says it is “really good” and “very funny”.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy (ISBN 9780545505178) from publisher Scholastic will be available on August 27, 2013