The Star Wars community has been very focused on promoting reading as of late, thanks to EUCantina’s Summer Reading for Children’s Literacy program and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Reads Day. The latter, a joint effort with a massive amount of participation from fans and Lucasfilm licensees, is taking place today at more than 1,200 bookstores and libraries across the United States.
Earlier this summer, we sat down with a number of Lucasfilm authors and editors to find out what Star Wars books mean to them and why they think the Star Wars galaxy is the perfect avenue to get children into reading. Here’s what they had to say:
Jennifer Heddle, Lucas Books Senior Editor
I’ve been reading Star Wars books almost my whole life. The Star Wars Storybook was amazing to me, how it actually had pictures from the movie (how’d they do that? I wondered) and retold the story. My brother and I and our neighborhood friends would use the Storybooks as guidelines when acting out the movies in our backyard. And I don’t think I’ve re-read any book as many times as I have the novelization for The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut. The original copy I had back in the 1980s – one of the first books I ever bought for myself – literally fell apart from constant handling and re-reading. It was my lifeline while I waited for Return of the Jedi to hit theaters. I can’t think of a better way to get kids into reading than through Star Wars. Exotic worlds and alien species fire the imagination, while the underlying truths of friendship, loyalty and love remind us what’s really important. Star Wars books were probably some of the best fictional depictions of friendship I read growing up.
Years later, when Heir to the Empire was published, I held the book gingerly, as if afraid that it would disappear, would turn out to be some sort of cosmic joke, if I thought about it too hard. How could I possibly have new Star Wars adventures to enjoy? It seemed too good to be true. But it was real, and little did I know that it would not only be the first of many books to come, but that I’d be working on Star Wars books myself one day. Now that is too good to be true.
Pablo Hidalgo, Author and Lucasfilm Brand Communications Manager
The first Star Wars book I ever read was Han Solo at Stars’ End. This was in an era where we didn’t have Star Wars on demand at our fingertips. The movies weren’t on home video and you couldn’t get your Star Wars fix by jumping onto the Internet. This book by Brian Daley was my go-to gateway into that universe. Because it was text on a page, I had to supply the art direction, casting, and visual effects in my mind. As a result, that story became one of my favorite Star Wars movies, because I so vividly pictured the Falcon weavings its way through the volcanic canyons of Duroon, or Han and Chewie running through the tall grain fields of Orron III, or Solo’s spectacularly miscalculated plan launching the Stars’ End prison facility into a low, decaying orbit. These images were ingrained into my memories as indelibly as the events shown on the screen – maybe even more so because I collaborated with the words on the page to make them happen. Reading is active engagement, not passive entertainment, and when a reader and the words connect, it is amazing chemistry.
Jason Fry, Author
I’m an old-school Star Wars fan (which is a nicer way of saying I’m old), and so one of the Star Wars books that’s meant the most to me is Han Solo at Stars’ End, by Brian Daley. Stars’ End came out when I was 10, madly in love with Star Wars and waiting impatiently for The Empire Strikes Back — which none of us knew was about to change everything. I loved Daley’s plots and battle scenes and his deft way with the characters, but most of all I loved that he made the Star Wars galaxy seem like a big place full of possibilities, with new heroes and villains and ships and planets and much more besides. Which is fundamentally what books do, whether you’re nine or ninety: They make your world bigger, allowing you to discover people and places and things that aren’t part of your daily life. Whether it’s Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy, The Jedi Path, or Han Solo at Stars’ End, books get in George Lucas’s imaginary galaxy are a perfect introduction to this idea, because they’ve got Wookiees and clones and Sith Lords and things that go BOOM in the blackness of space. All of which we love, and all of which lead to so much more.
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Author
Star Wars novels have introduced me to some truly wonderful characters. Characters who are fun to write, living in amazing new worlds that I can explore as a reader, and help build as a writer. They’ve also allowed me to work closely with my amazing collaborator, Michael Reaves, and to probe into some deep questions about life, the universe, and everything. I’ve also been able to contribute people, places and stories to the Galaxy Far, Far Away, which is pretty cool. I saw the first Star Wars movies when I was a young adult and never dreamed I’d be writing in George Lucas’ universe. I’m very happy to have been invited to do so. I was a member of the first generation to grow up with Star Wars as part of my world. Star Wars gets into your blood and makes you want to explore space, time, and story. It’s that capacity for charging and engaging the imagination that I think makes these books a great way to get kids to read. I’ve used them with my own young daughter: did you like that movie? Here’s a book that will let you stay in that universe with these people a while longer. Just as you like it.” It works for me!
Michael A. Stackpole, Author
The Star Wars EU novels are the perfect way to encourage reading because of a very cool secret about the books. Readers come to them after having seen the films, which means readers already have a big Star Wars vocabulary—they know how the words sound and they know what they mean. The books are easier for them to understand, which makes reading far more fun. And once someone finds out that reading is fun, well, there’s just no stopping them. Readers get to enjoy the most important thing, to my mind, about the novels: a chance to go further, faster and deeper into the Galaxy Far, Far Away!
We’d like to thank everyone for taking time out of their busy schedules to contribute. For more about reading from Star Wars authors, artists, actors, and more, check out StarWars.com’s series of videos interviews.