Review: Star Wars: R2-D2’s Droid Workshop (or, Pinocchio Wishes He Were This Cool)
This happens to be my first review of a children’s book. I must also admit to feeling a tad of trepidation; I skipped that whole ‘reading children’s books’ (or indeed reading any books) as a kid, so I wasn’t sure if I would be up to it. However, my sister happens to have some small humans that she’s rearing free range: a brace of nieces and a nephew. So I thought it a brilliant idea to try this book (entitled Star Wars: R2-D2’s Droid Workshop by Egmont Publishing) on them. I know, right? Who ever had the thought of it? It’ll be the next big thing, I’m sure of it. I had in mind to sit them down to play over the weekend, only for an hour or so – it’s not that I don’t like them it’s just, well, they’re kind of annoying sometimes. We’d sit down, do all the activities, make our wee Artoo, have fun, laugh, then kindly tuck them away in a cupboard at the end of it and I’d play with Artoo on my own. However, with children (and with errant padawans if certain TV shows have taught us anything), nothing ever quite goes according to plan. If you’re reading this and have kids, or have kids in the family, I’m sure you know this feeling. If you don’t happen to have kids: you few, you happy few, you lucky sods.
But, never mind that for now. On to the book. There are two parts to this hardback: the first is the collection of pieces, pleasingly arranged in a type of foam book-within-a-book, with which to make your advertised miniature R2 unit. More on that in a moment. The second part is an activity book with various Star Wars-themed puzzles and games (If you imagine opening up a book, the foam book is on the right, the puzzle book on the left). In the middle of this puzzle book are the instructions for the assembly of The Artoo, The Wise and Powerful and Squeaky, which we shall now discuss. Or more accurately I talk and you, I sincerely hope, go ‘oh that doesn’t sound too hard’. It honestly wasn’t. Though I’ll understand completely if you feel a certain amount of dread at the thought of assembling things.
Nothing, no tools or glue are required for assembly. And though you can just pop out the pieces from the pages, I would recommend using a thin instrument, like a blunt knife, to loosen the edges of the pieces. More than once I worried about bending or breaking or otherwise ruining the sections by my attempts to set them free. Another tip for construction that I found useful: When folding the necessary foldy bits, I found using a standard ruler resulted in straighter and crisper folds; much more satisfying a result than folds created by hand alone.
Each piece – there are about 12 in total – are helpfully labelled by number (and sometimes specific bits also have a number, which makes the folding of the legs much easier). The pieces simply slot in and hold in place reasonably well. I’ve resisted the temptation to glue them, just in case, for fear of the glue damaging material. But if you’re more knowledgeable about such things, and feel glue is necessary, then perhaps you’d like to? It’s up to you, and only you can determine if you’re satisfied to leave it at that. The 10 step instructions, found in the puzzle book, utilise both written instructions and illustrations, are fairly clear and simple and, I found, easy to follow. All in all, it was the work of ten, maybe twenty minutes of work with a minimum of fuss or hassle. At the end of it you have your very own Artoo, standing at roughly 25cm tall, and one that’s sturdy enough for some light play (though you may not wish to use it as a football or tennis ball or whateverball. Actually, use as a basketball is acceptable, though it does often get stuck in the net). Though personally I just placed Artoo on a pedestal to be worshipped (I don’t know what those Ewoks were thinking with Threepio; he may be shiny and all but Artoo is clearly the superior being).
Now for the activity book itself. The main attraction of this book is, obviously, the Make Your Own Artoo, but let’s not undersell the puzzles here. It’s technically a ‘Story and puzzle book’. I can tell because it has those words printed on the front of the book, in nice, bold, friendly letters. Italicised and everything. The story itself follows Artoo in the first half or so of A New Hope, from the opening on the Tantive IV to his meeting of Obi Wan. At every step of the story there are puzzles which you must solve – somewhat of a challenge, but I believe they’re a pleasant and rewarding challenge for the intended 7+ audience – and these puzzles tie in, rather neatly I feel, to each step of the story. Nothing felt out of place. Which is a minor plus, admittedly, and one that I don’t think anyone will notice or appreciate (Sorry, I was a little judgy there), but I thought it was a deft touch, a maintained the easy flow of the book. The puzzles themselves are: a maze, a handful of anagrams of names from the film, a treasure hunt, how to draw R2 (minor gripe, it’s three steps long and there’s a very large step up in detail from Step 2 to Step 3, which some may find daunting), match up the pairs, spot the difference, a simple Snakes & Ladders style board game, a game where you match up the lightsabers with their owners and finally a message which you must decode (with the answers to all the puzzles on the last page).
Personally, I sometimes wonder if 7 year olds are really interested in that sort of thing, or if those puzzles are just things we adults foist on kids because that’s what we were given when we were young. Will children enjoy them? Will yours? I can’t answer that question, of course. Only you can, and I include the list of puzzles in case that will be a factor in your decision-making. Of course you could just buy it for the R2 unit (for the children, naturally) and do the puzzles yourself.
So, what did my nieces and nephew think of the book? Ah. There was that slight problem, that little hiccup in my plan, that I mentioned earlier.
I never got round to giving it to them.
I know, I know, but it was just such good fun that I just, kind of, didn’t give it to them. Okay, so I did finally give them the Artoo model to play with, but did do the puzzles myself (I’m absolutely certain that kids don’t like puzzles, which is handy because adults love them).
In conclusion: all in all a good book, highly enjoyable and a pleasant way to spend a morning; good for kids. And slightly immature adults.
Star Wars: R2-D2’s Droid Workshop by Egmont Publishing is out now in UK bookstores. Thank you to Egmont for sending a copy for review purposes.
Thank you to Egmont for sending a copy for review purposes.