Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Review: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Roan Novachez wants nothing more than to get into Pilot Academy Middle School so that he can follow in his father's and older brother's footsteps. His friends get their letters of acceptance...and Roan's still waiting. His letter, when it finally comes, tells him that his application has been denied. "Although nearly all of the applicants are accepted to the Academy," it says, "a small number of students are rejected for various reasons." Psych!

Roan is devastated, particularly since this means instead of the Pilot Academy offworld he'll have to stay on Tatooine...and go to the Tatooine Agriculture Academy. Yuck! It's hot, dirty, and Roan's terrible at making things grow--not to mention he'll get sand in his underwear all the time.

And then he gets a really weird letter, from a place he's never heard of, the Coruscant Campus of the Jedi Academy. The what? No matter--it will take Roan offworld and he won't have to kneel in the dirt under the suns of Tatooine all day long. He's in!

When he gets to middle school he meets new kids; some will be friends, a couple are bullies, and there are even some girls. He meets teachers, most of whom are pretty weird (what middle school teacher isn't at least a little weird, hm?). There's Mr. Garfield, who teaches Light Sabers and Home Economics and who's always saying things like, "A Jedi needs to be serious. Seriously. You do." And Kitmum, the Phys Ed teacher, who's a Wookie and says things like, "Raowrr!" and "Rawr." And of course, Master Yoda, who teaches Using the Force. "Young like you , I once was," and "Late for class, a Jedi is not, hmmm?" are some memorable Yoda bon mots from Roan's first week of school.

He's so not sure how this is going to turn out. 

But as the school year progresses Roan gets involved with the school newspaper, helps plan the school dance, and qualifies for the Lightsaber Fencing Tournament. He gets better in most of his classes, and even learns how to use the Force a little. And when he has the opportunity to reapply for the Pilot Academy Middle School at the end of the year, he thinks he'd rather stick it out at the Jedi Academy.

Jeffrey Brown is a cartoonist (Darth Vader and Son, Vader's Little Princess), graphic novelist, and memoirist. His first first venture into middle grade fiction is a winner. Jedi Academy falls nicely into the genre of diary fiction popularized by Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid series, alternating first person journal entries, letters from home, third person cartoon panels in graphic novel format, lists, and Roan's own cartoons for the school newspaper (The Padawan Observer). A perfect read for the eight- to ten-year-old set, who will find it hilarious, and who will learn--without even realizing they're learning--methods for coping with tough classes, bullies, and new situations in general. Brown even ends the book with some great tips for keeping a journal--write at least ten words a day, include drawings, clippings, photos...and don't hesitate to record the embarrassing stuff, because it'll seem way less embarrassing and maybe even funnier that way. Advice to live by!

No comments: