Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side

I briefly met Tom Angleberger at ALA Midwinter in Chicago, two years(ish) ago.  It was the weekend of one of the Great Chicago Blizzards.  I had to make it from Wicker Park, land of the hipsters, to McCormick Place.  It took me two hours.  I was wet and cold and so excited to be there.

Even though most people believe that librarians--especially children's librarians--have read all the books in their section of the library, this is impossible, unless your library is a burro or a camel.  Then ... yes, I can see managing that.  I'm not even sure how many books are in our children's collection alone, but it is, as Luke Skywalker once told Han, "Far more than you can imagine!"

Regretfully, I've not gotten around to reading the Origami Yoda books, although I think they look cute.  So when I swung by Angleberger's booth (his wife Cece Bell was also there to take home prizes for El Deafo), I noticed an origami Yoda head attached to his name badge.  While picking up a copy of the first book in his then-new series, The Qwikpick Papers, I asked him if he had folded it himself.  He replied, "Yes.  Do you want it?  You can have it!"  I honestly didn't think I had a whit of desperation or longing in my voice when I posed my questions, merely curiosity and the frantic terror of the introvert attempting to make conversation with people who are, to her, Rock Stars.  

I declined, telling him that it suited him, but I'm always struck when I meet authors who are just ridiculously good people.  I once saw Gene Luen Yang run from table to table at ALA Annual trying to find change for a $20 bill for the woman ahead of me.  He didn't have to, but he's good people.

So I went into Beware the Power of the Dark Side, the third in the illustrated novels released by Disney as part of the big marketing push for TFA expecting something good.  Guess what?

I got something fantastic.  Angleberger's book rivals Alex Bracken's (reviewed here) for my affections in Star Wars books, but they are so very different from each other that I think I can safely love both of them to a ridiculous degree.

While Alex Bracken's take on A New Hope was structurally innovative and illuminating as to character backgrounds and motivations, Angleberger's book is very much a classic movie companion.  He remains true to the original story and dialogue while adding in tidbits from other canonical works.  And I definitely approve of his using the Legacy (now canon???) term younglings.  Takes me back.

If you love Star Wars, you'll love this book.  It has all the classic lines, plus extra info on the people we love to hate: Jabba the Hutt and Emperor Palpatine.  There's more depth to Luke's struggle against the lure of the Dark Side as well as coming to terms with the fact that Darth Vader is his father.  We also see Vader's side of the story (or "certain point of view," to quote Obi-Wan!) and his relentless search for his son that isn't driven solely by hate.  It's this weird, twisted, obsessive love, which seems to be the only way Anakin can show affection.

Angleberger handles all of the characters with aplomb, but I was most impressed by the dignity he gave to the Ewoks.  A lot of people don't like Return of the Jedi because of the Ewoks (as a kid, I liked them but wasn't obsessed), yet Angleberger approaches them logically, from an ecological standpoint.  They are the top of the food chain on Endor.  You don't get there by being stupid (although I suppose one could argue humans are the exception) or by virtue of being cute.  Ewoks are hunters, and they very much enjoy stabbing things and eating them.  They were going to eat Han and Luke and Chewie, remember?  Not just burn, but yum-yum BBQ time!  Ewoks are little balls of nasty that the Rebels were lucky to get on their side.  Even the classic (now replaced) victory song at the end where they sing "Yub nub" makes more sense, because Angleberger translates it as "peace."  And peace is always a good thing to sing about, no matter which language you speak.

This is a really stellar Star Wars book, and I will definitely pick up some of Angleberger's other works in the future.

Yub nub!


  1. I'm betting that the Ewoks were deliberately made cute, though! But I've read somewhere that they're basically related to the much bigger Wookies and let's face it, NOBODY thinks there's anything cute or cuddly about Chewie(except possibly Maaz, who likes him enough to jokingly refer to him as her "boyfriend".)

    1. I have also read this, which explains why Chewie and the Ewoks were able to work together to hijack the AT-ST. I think the Ewoks were cute-ified for more kid appeal on the part of George Lucas, who, although he can be a genius, makes some really dumb decisions.


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