Many elementary school kids spend their days wishing school was more like Star Wars. But what if Star Wars was school?
That’s the ambitious theory behind Workman Publishing’s new collection of Star Wars Workbooks, which aim to drill youngsters in everything from “Preschool Number Fun” to “2nd Grade Writing—by means of everything from Boba Fett to Padmé Amidala. The books align with Common Core requirements, and Workman promises that they drill basic concepts in much the same way as the company’s highly successful Brainquest workbook series. Of course, the Star Wars books will also help everyone remember the long “O” in Obi-Wan (which we think is far more important than two plus two).
Raquel Jaramillo, the editor-at-large at Workman who conceived of the idea, describes herself as the “ultimate Star Wars geek.” When her eldest son was learning to read, she made phonics books for him based off of elements from George Lucas’s six-movie saga (the “light” in lightsaber rhymes with “might” and “right,” etc.). She quickly realized that there was potential for a whole workbook series set in this universe.
Jaramillo said that it wasn’t hard to get Lucasfilm on board for the project; she had worked with them before. Still, she had to make sure that the books followed the rules of the in-universe canon—characters from the first three films don’t appear next to characters from the prequels, for instance. These are the sorts of things only an expert might spot—which is why Jaramillo asked her younger son to help her proofread. “He would catch the little things,” she said, “like when Boba Fett’s antenna was on the wrong side.”
Lucasfilm would check over Workman’s drafts as they were completed, but Jaramillo and her team also worked to pull some definition back into the Star Wars universe. They had to make a judgment call on whether umbrellas (critical for a “u” in the alphabet series) existed somewhere in that galaxy far, far away (the team decided yes). Jaramillo also recalled calling Lucasfilm to ask, once and for all, whether the “Han” in Han Solo is pronounced with a long or short “A,” because Princess Leia says it differently at different times. “It goes both ways,” she said. “So we couldn’t use him [for the phonics books].”
It’s hard to talk about Star Wars without commenting on the big divides within the saga’s fandom—most pressingly between fans of the original three movies and those of the prequels. On that end, Jaramillo admitted that she’s a “bit of a traditionalist,” but noticed that kids under the age of twenty who grew up with Star Wars tend to know the prequels better than the originals. To that end, Jaramillo put in a lot of material from the older movies for the sake of the parents who’d be helping their kids through the workbooks—but knew she’d have to appease the kids as well. She reflected back on her son’s eighth birthday party to prove the point: “I had eight eight-year-old boys over for a sleepover, and they were really into Jar Jar Binks. So who am I to judge?”
Jar Jar Binks begins with a capital letter “J.” For something that begins with a lowercase letter “j,” see “jet pack” on the opposite page.