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Star Wars: Jedi Academy

Star Wars: Jedi AcademyStar Wars: Jedi Academy
Written and Illustrated by: Jeffrey Brown
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Softcover, 5.25 x 7.5, 160 pages, Full Color, $12.99
ISBN: 978-0-54550-517-8

Review
If 2014 is going to start anything like the first review and lesson plan for Diamond Comic Distributors' Katie Korner, it's going to be one heck of good year for graphic novels. Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars Jedi Academy is absolutely worthy of taking a moment to stop reading this review and quickly order it ASAP. I'll give you a few minutes to order it. I'll be waiting right here to share teasing treats about what's now on its way to your mailbox . . . .

Ok, now that you and I both know that your copy of Brown's Jedi Academy is on its way we can amp-up your anticipation.  

"A long time ago in galaxy far, far away," Brown notoriously sets the stage.  

And then it happens. "There was a boy named Roan Novachez," Brown introduces an entirely new take on the legendary Star Wars. The cinematic and literary beauty of what Brown accomplishes in his Star Wars spin-off is rare. Many are the writers and artists who have tried to recreate or retell a Star Wars tale. None – in my humble opinion – have done it so well. Some of them may have been good, perhaps noteworthy, even decent. But Brown's Jedi Academy is brilliant! A tip of the hat from Brown to George Lucas this new graphic novel is destined to not only become a series, but also a phenomenon. Trust me, I would stand in line all night to get the next graphic novel in the series. And I would probably dress up as Brown's new character, Roan, for the occasion.

Without further teases of acclaim and anticipation here's the skinny. Roan Novachez has dreamt of following in his family's footsteps; in fact, he feels destined to attend the prestigious and beloved-family school of choice, The Pilot Academy Middle School. As if a rejection isn't foreshadowed early on in the story due to Roan's surety and overwhelming anticipation, I absolutely did not expect the letter from the Pilot Academy Middle School to crush his hopes and dreams so drastically: "We will have to deny your admittance to the Academy at this team. Although nearly all of the applicants are accepted to the Academy, a small number of students are rejected for various reasons. We wish you all the best . . ."

"Harsh!" is a word that may come to mind. As soon as I thought "harsh," however, my next thought was "Perfect!" A coming of age graphic novel for early and young adult readers Roan must face some real-life obstacles, some real life situations, and some real-life realities. Situations out of his control, even if he does indeed later learn to use the force. Unbeknownst to him at the time, his path is singular and perhaps even more special than those of previous family members.  

To Roan's surprise a second, unexpected letter arrives shortly thereafter. At the request of Master Jedi Yoda, Roan is invited to attend The JEDI ACADEMY. But why? Jedis are chosen from a young age. Roan is already in middle school. Why would Master Jedi Yoda want him – AT HIS AGE!!! – to come to The JEDI ACADEMY?

I'm sure your book is being processed by now and on its way. You'll just have to wait to find out what's in store for Roan. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Soon-to-be middle school student Roan Novachez believes he is destined to follow in his family's footsteps and attend the Pilot Academy Middle School. But his dreams are dashed to a million pieces when a rejection letter arrives. When one door closes, however, another one opens. And this is just the case for Roan. Roan receives a second letter from Master Jedi Yoda to attend The JEDI ACADEMY. Disgruntled and pouty, Roan agrees to attend, but he is curious as to why Master Jedi Yoda would ask him to attend The JEDI ACADEMY when students at the academy are nearly always brought up by the academy from a much younger age; the other students will surely see him as an outcast for sure. What does Yoda see in him? He's not even good enough to get into the Pilot Academy Middle School.

Major Characters: Roan Novachez, Jax and Reg, Master Jedi Yoda, Davin, Roan's mother and father, Oliver, Principal Mar, Mrs. Pilton, Kitmum, Mr. Garfield, Librarian Lackbar, RW-22, T-P30, Pasha, Cronah, Cyrus, Jo-Ahn, Tegan, Gaiana, Egon, Bill, Ronald, Shi-Fara, Ewok Pilot

Major Settings: Alderaan, Pilot Academy Middle, JEDI ACADEMY, Tatooine, Coruscant, Kashyyyk

Themes: Obstacles and Challenges, Hopes-Goals-Dreams, Flexibility, Identity, Family, School Life, Bullying and Positive Response Strategies

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie, Bone by Jeff Smith, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, any of Stan Lee's Spiderman stories, Huck Finn and/or Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Holes by Lois Sachar, Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network

Some Teaching Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards For Young Adult Readers

Key Ideas and Details*
3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
* The number referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.commoncore.org)

Lesson Idea for Young Adult Readers:

Directions:
Because this story is so brilliantly written as a coming of age text the Common Core Standard for Key Ideas and Details focused on analysis of events and individuals over time is central to comprehension. Below is a timeline students can use to record either the events in the story or Roan’s character development. As Yoda might say "Is yours, the choice."

Students should feel free to make their own notches/line indications where they feel necessary on the timeline. Eight to ten notches/line indications should be expected.

Event / Character Timeline for Jedi Academy
 

 


Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida.  Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2013); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts ( in press, 2014).  When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her two wiener dogs, Sam and Max.