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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Star Wars

Orbiting Kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in OrbitThat lively, quirky-thinking duo from Planet Kindergarten have teamed up once again for Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit. Many schools use the 100-day marker to reflect on how far they’ve come since the first day of kindergarten. Social graces, etiquette, mindfulness, assignments, singing, pledges … they’re all included in this new book.

But the extra-fun twist is that our hero recounts the entire story as a trip into space aboard a starship filled with aliens and a thoughtful commander. 

A classmate who becomes sick doing “anti-gravity exercises” is kindly accompanied to the Nurse’s Office by our hero. Shane Prigmore, the illustrator, reminds us of the exciting scene from Star Wars, the first movie, in which Luke Skywalker zeros in on the Deathstar, with a hallful of doors, slightly askew, and the red-doored office at the end. Adults and older siblings will get the reference and continue looking for more. 

Waiting for show-and-tell, our hero says “Then, like the Apollo astronauts, we wait to be called up. It takes forever before my turn.” Mayhem ensues when there’s a tricky maneuver … but these children aliens are quick to lend a hand, because that’s what they’ve learned in Planet Kindergarten!

Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit

The illustrations are bold and funny and cued-up with plenty to notice and appreciate. The story is clever but that never gets in the way. It’s a very good story to read out loud, savor as a child-and-adult reading book, or use in the classroom to inspire space-themed play and imagination. Count me in as a moon circling this planet!

Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit
written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
Chronicle Books, 2016

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Epic felt

Three small board books … encompassing the first three Star Wars movies and a year-long craft project.

Star Wars Epic Felt

As I read each book, all 12 words, one word and one photo on each two-page spread, it slowly dawned on me just how ingenious they are.

In those 12 carefully chosen words and scenes from the movie, Jack and Holman Wang, twin brothers and admirable artistes, manage to evoke the entire saga of the first three movies. As a Star Wars-loving parent , grandparent (yes, the first fans are old enough to be reading to their grandchildren), aunt or uncle, this is a clever way to communicate across generations, to bring your wee ones into the universe of the Skywalkers.

Each word in the books gives readers an opportunity to talk about ideas such as snow, friend, kiss, father … all of the truly big concepts in a young person’s life … and how they weave into the Star Wars saga.

If we still had bards, they would be regaling us with the epic tales of Tatooine and Aldebaran, the Jedi, and the Force. These books are an unparalleled way to encourage storytelling of tales that are surely as familiar to modern bards as Beowulf or Gilgamesh were to audiences of old.

Star Wars Epic Felt

For further astonishment, each photo on the page opposite those words is as heartfelt and concise in storytelling as are the words. Made by needle felting, consider as well the scale modeling of the characters’ surroundings and the excellent photography. This is artistic skill at its finest.

Jack Wang is an associate professor teaching creative writing at Ithaca College. Holman Wang left the life of a middle school teacher and corporate lawyer to focus fulltime on creating children’s books. The boys grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. Today, they live on opposite coasts, Jack in Ithaca, New York, and Holman in Vancouver. Their website is a must-visit.

In their own words, here’s how the books are made: “The primary technique for making the figures in Star Wars Epic Yarns is needle felting, which is essentially sculpting with wool. This is a painstaking process which involves stabbing loose wool thousands of times with a specialized barbed needle. This entangles the wool fibers, making the wool firmer and firmer. It took us nearly a year to create all the Star Wars figures and spaceships in wool, build all the scale-model sets, and do all the in-studio or on location photography. We even flew to California and Arizona to find real desert to recreate the scenes on Tatooine! As lifelong Star Wars fans, it was important to us to get the books just right. Think of Star Wars Epic Yarns as the ultimate, year-long craft project! It was definitely a labor of love.”

Highly recommended.

Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope
Jack Wang and Holman Wang
Chronicle Books, 2015

Be sure to look for their other classic books, Cozy Classics from Simply Read Books, a couple of which are pictured here.

Cozy Creations

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Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series, came out a few months after Child #1 was born. In my sleep-deprived stupor, I didn’t notice for awhile; but it quickly became difficult to be a citizen of the world and not know about Harry Potter. Suffice to say, the […]

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