January 17, 2008


Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy. By Matthew Reinhart. Orchard Books/Scholastic. $32.99.

      And you thought the Empire had been destroyed. Nope – it is growing all the time, and is worth more than $6 billion already (on an initial investment in the $400 million range). This is, of course, the Star Wars empire, not the Galactic Empire created within the Star Wars universe and overthrown by the good guys in the third movie made, which was actually the sixth in the event sequence

      Okay…step back a moment. The Star Wars saga – that is, the saga of the six films, not the saga told by those films – now spans 30 years, and it is so complex that a good business-school case study could be made of it. But the movies’ story of good vs. evil is at its heart so simple that even young children can and do relate to it – and it is at such children, ages seven and up, that Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy is aimed.

      Make no mistake: the book is a purely commercial endeavor, intended to cash in on the continuing popularity of the Star Wars franchise while giving it greater appeal to children who were not even alive when most of the films were made (only two of the movies are less than seven years old). But even for adults, it’s worth embracing your inner child and getting this book if you enjoy the Star Wars films – because the pop-ups are remarkably cleverly done, the information surrounding the pop-ups gives considerable insight into the worlds envisioned in the six-movie series, and parents will likely find any thoughts of crass commercialism quickly drowned beneath a tide of nostalgia.

      You will not see anything really new in Matthew Reinhart’s book, but you will see Star Wars characters and settings in a way that literally leaps off the page. There are three dozen pop-ups here, and they meticulously render the features of the good guys (Luke, Han, Leia, Obi-Wan), the bad guys (Palpatine, Darth Vader, Count Dooku), and of course the robotic sidekicks (C3PO and R2D2, nearly the only characters to appear in all six films). There’s a kind of innocent fun to the whole book – and indeed to the whole Star Wars series, which is remarkably bloodless in its violence. And there is something refreshing in seeing characters who never really came alive on screen, such as Padmé Amidala, in a three-dimensional setting in which their intended importance comes through more clearly than it ever did on film.

      This is a souvenir book, akin to the glossy programs once sold in movie-theater lobbies for films as varied as Gone with the Wind and Around the World in Eighty Days. Reinhart does tell the films’ stories, does explain the characters, and does give more background on the universe of Star Wars than moviegoers will necessarily have picked up on their own (although fanatical fans will not find anything here that they did not already know). The cute and clever touches, from the intricacy of the pop-ups to the positioning of enemies on facing pages to the “working” lightsabers, simply make this very well-produced book into an even better souvenir of an especially long-lasting and beloved fictional universe.

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