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'Star Wars' Heats Up Again

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With a new "Star Wars" movie in production, the franchise is capitalizing on the popularity momentum with a slew of books based on the soon-to-be animated spinoff "Star Wars Rebels."

"Star Wars Rebels The Visual Guide" by DK Publishing and Adam Bray; DK Children; 128 pages; $16.99.

The official companion to the new "Star Wars" animated series, this DK book follows a plucky band of heroes who are fighting against the might of the evil Galactic Empire. With key character profiles (like Ezra Bridger and the Inquisitor) and data files of new vehicles (the Ghost and AT-DP), this big and bold guide in typically up-close and clear DK Publishing fashion is a must-have for young fans.

The new series, set to air in early fall, should gain many fans, due to the success of the last CGI series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

As key character Sabine says, "This is going to be fun. Very fun."

"Star Wars Rebels A New Hero" by Pablo Hidalgo; illustrated by Rebels Animation Team; Disney Lucasfilm Press; 48 pages; $17.99.

With behind-the-scenes concept art, this storybook showcases the new characters and environments that inspired the new CG animated series. Taken from the color palette, style, tone and locations of some of Ralph McQuarrie's original concept paintings for the classic "Star Wars" trilogy, the new producers wanted to capture some of that magic, and they want to do so in this unique picture book.

The story within the book introduces tough, street-smart new character Ezra Bridger as he meets the rebels and goes on board their ship, the Ghost, for his first outer-space adventure. With an underlying theme of friendship, adventure and sacrifice, "A New Hero" proves new star Ezra needs his friends as much as they need him. The book is also gorgeous and well thought-out, and does bring to mind classic "Star Wars" animation.

As an added bonus: The book comes with a code to redeem for a replica eBook.

"Star Wars Rebels Ezra's Gamble" by Ryder Windham; Disney Lucasfilm Press; 160 pages; $6.99.

This paperback junior novel gives readers (ages 7 to 12) a glimpse at our main hero's adventures before the events of the first episode.

When 14-year-old Ezra is whisked into a tournament known as Arena Day, where mighty beasts battle to the finish, he's whisked into an unlikely partnership with a fearsome bounty hunter.

Written clearly and with lots of excitement, "Ezra's Gamble" contains 10 fun-filled chapters for kids with lots of reading experience.

A slightly younger reading group will enjoy the series' "Rise of the Rebels," a "Star Wars Saga Chapter Book," also from Disney (118 pages; $5.99).

This lively read sends friends Kanan, Hera and trusty old Chopper to battle TIE fighters, while Sabine uses her artistic talents to outsmart Stormtroopers. Other Rebels friends, Ezra and Zeb, also take down troopers and score a special souvenir at a crash site.

With bold, colorful graphics peppered throughout, this fun chapter book is perfect for action fans.

"Star Wars Rebels: Chopper Saves the Day," by Disney Book Group; Disney Lucasfilm Press; 24 pages; $4.99.

With two pages of stickers included, this affordable, paperback picture book lets kids decorate story pages or their own paper with vehicles and characters from the new series. The story features the cranky astromech droid Chopper who's called up on to keep the Ghost ship together after TIE fighters attack.

With a familiar story about a droid not unlike C3PO, this little book should thrill young fans.

Also for youngsters, "Star Wars Rebels Zeb to the Rescue" is a Level 1 easy reader with lots of bold illustrations and large text, perfect for kids in pre-kindergarten to first grade.

"Star Wars Rebels Ezra and the Pilot" is a Level 2 easy reader, for kids up to second grade who are learning compound sentences and contractions.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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