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Star Wars fans of a certain age know exactly what these are. We had each of them on our bookshelves, we spent hours poring through them, and many of us still own them. It’s an incredible understatement to call the library of Star Wars books that have been published over the past 40 years vast. Of the hundreds of Star Wars books out there, dozens of them are just novelizations, abridgments, and retellings of the original trilogy. Yet none hold quite so special a place in our hearts than the oversized storybooks that were released along with each film. These books. They’re classics of the genre and a favorite of collectors. But they hold up surprisingly well, and I’d argue that they still deserve a place on your bookshelf — especially if you have little ones at home. Here are five reasons why they’re still most impressive.
1. They don’t pander.
In the storybooks, the narrative isn’t “dumbed down” or abridged beyond recognition. They’re relatively short and intended for kids, sure, but they don’t try to tell an entire film in a mere 10 pages. Clocking in at about 50 pages and 20,000 words each, the storybooks represent a breed of children’s books that are a rarity in today’s market. They treat kids like sophisticated readers, and the prose practically glistens with vivid descriptions, characterization, and fully realized settings. The books are lavishly adorned with dozens of photographs, but the text doesn’t pull any punches. They remain just as vibrant as ever, and I still think they’re an exciting read.
2. They’re well written.
Because the storybooks are so long (based on the word count, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call them novellas), they don’t awkwardly stumble from one plot development to the next or omit any of the flavor that makes Star Wars so special — as many children’s books unfortunately do. Instead, we get to go deeper. The text moves beyond the basic story beats and main characters, and it has the freedom to focus on details and establish a sense of time and place. In short, the books immerse readers in the Star Wars universe in way that doesn’t feel like a stereotypical kids book.
“The Death Star commander, Moff Jerjerrod, was a tall, confident officer. But the sight of Darth Vader coming on board his battle station was enough to make even Jerjerrod turn pale and tremble. Vader was huge, and his face was hidden behind a mask. He was dressed all in black, and the sound of his harsh mechanical breathing echoed loudly in the silence of the hall.”
These books are stuffed full of so many pictures that the only reason they’re called “storybooks” is because of the astronomical word count. Nevertheless, they absolutely make phenomenal picture books for little kids and beginning readers. In addition, the stories are told in a way that makes them thrilling to read aloud (I mean, come on, it’s Star Wars). They’re just enough of a challenge for young readers to tackle on their own. And they’re long enough that older kids won’t immediately discount them. Honestly, they’re perfect books for all ages!
4. They were our first glimpse of deleted scenes.
No other books published around the time of the original trilogy’s theatrical release had as many photos as the storybooks. As I mentioned, they include all of the most iconic images from the films…but they also gave us something more. They teased us with scenes no one remembered on screen. When did Luke look up to the sky through binoculars? Who’s this Biggs guy with the mustache talking to Luke? When did a medical droid examine a dead tauntaun on Hoth? Even though the Special Editions restored some of the scenes originally cut from the films, these three moments specifically were never reinstated. That means the storybooks are still one of the few places where these fabled scenes are presented as originally intended.
5. The remind us of an earlier time.
A time without VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, or the Internet. A time when every frame from every film wasn’t just a few mouse clicks away. A time when our only access to the films was in our memories or reenacted with Kenner action figures. The photos in these books show all of the best scenes and allowed us — in the early to mid ’80s — to relive the films, even though we’d have to wait an unknown amount of time before they were shown on TV.
The photos also allowed us to dwell on characters and scenes we could only glimpse in the actual films. Finally, we could linger on and really study the aliens and creatures from the cantina and Jabba’s palace. We got amazing shots of all of the spacecraft. And we got perfect reference photos for our own drawings of the Death Star and Ewok Village.
Most of these photos have since become iconic. They’re the same images that are still used today to represent the films, and they show the trilogy as it originally was. For those of us with those memories, the books are a perfect blast of nostalgia. For younger generations, though they may not evoke the same feelings, they nevertheless stand the test of time and remain unbelievably faithful — and effective — adaptations of classic films.
Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).