Monday, August 15, 2016

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded.

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded.

While books like character encyclopedias are never an unwelcome addition to my bookshelf, I must admit that I had never expected to receive this one. In fact, it surprisingly arrived on my doorstep (quite literally) alongside another book. And, seeing as to how I am a huge Star Wars fan I welcomed the opportunity to give it a good perusal.

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded, is a 224 page book published by DK Books and authored by Pablo Hidalgo. Its intended audience is readers ages 7 to 17. The book is, as the name suggests, an updated version to include new entries that include characters from The Force Awakens.

First, let me begin by establishing that I can understand what they were trying for here. Believe me. I get it. The whole design was clearly focused on being a fun little collection of info for kids/young readers.

With that in mind, it is understandable that this would not be a comprehensive dossier on all the complex figures that inhabit a galaxy far far away. It also means that an older reader can expect some simplification as to wording, grammar and yes – the information itself.

But here is one of the key problems that I found with this book; they go too far in this aspect of the book’s design. When benign aspects are repeatedly highlighted such as; ‘this is a belt/belt buckle’ things get monotonous even to a kid. You can write simple fact based entries for fictional characters without highlighting things in terms of; look, they have boots! I mean, come on. Just because your target audience is children doesn’t mean you have to insult their intelligence.

Furthermore, the art in this book also causes me an issue. When there is an untold wealth of images and art to draw on from character sketches, comic panels all the way up to digital artist renderings I have to question the logic behind decades old grainy vhs screen shots. Because that is what some of the artwork looks like to me. This is just sad.

I hate speaking ill of any book, especially one that covers a beloved brand. But this was one that I just found far too many short comings to ignore. I can applaud the attempt, I really can. However things were poorly worded at times to be clear to a younger reader, the art was cheap and honestly things were just way too watered down to retain the inherent value and appeal that Star Wars has.

I’d have to rate it 2/5 with one point for the effort and another for the range of material covered. Better art, tighter wording/editing and a more systematic approach to how the various entries were described would have gone a long way. A lot of kids will read about one creature and want to know where it is from etc and then question why the next doesn’t even mention such information. The devil is in the details and that makes this feel more like cheaply produced cash grab. This is disappointing given the quality I am beginning to expect and admire from DK Books.