There are few books more suited to the Ones I Wish I’d Written category than Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son. A pint-sized picture book, it’s brilliantly as much a book for big kids as small ones.
In fact, I suspect many a new parent who grew up with Star Wars will be buying it as a nostalgic, wry chuckle-inducing alternative to reading their kids Winnie the Pooh and Teletubbies (both of which are far less gripping and far more teeth-grindingly tedious the millionth time*).
The Darth Vader and Son premise is an alternate reality in which Darth Vader is closely involved in Luke Skywalker’s life (there’s a soon-to-be-released princess version with Leia).
The book opens with reworked iconic yellow opening text scrolling against the darkened backdrop of the galaxy. This is Episode Three and a half, and Vader is dividing his time between his fatherly duties and his battle against the Rebel Alliance.
Darth Vader and Son marries disparate but instantly recognisable and relatable themes, and contains subtle Star Wars nods. ‘I don’t want a sister’, Luke pouts on one page, while Leia puts dresses on an assortment of Star Wars-themed dolls.
‘But Dad, you said we could go to Tosche Station after nap!’ Luke later wails. ‘I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further,’ Vader replies. ‘Luke, why aren’t you ready for school?’ is followed with ‘Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate you.’
Truthfully, though, the one that made me laugh myself a hernia is when Luke is trying to select a Ja Ja Binks stuffed toy. As Vader wisely tries to tell him, ‘This isn’t the toy you’re looking for …’
I won’t tell you any more because I think it’s a book best experienced first hand (testament to its quality is that I’m saying that as someone who’s not a dad and not even a mum). Suffice to say there are ‘I am your father’ and ‘Are we there yet?’ references and plenty more.
The book incorporates a classic idea that’s so simple you can’t entirely believe no one had done it before. Simultaneously, it’s so clever that you are envious and know you wouldn’t have thought of it yourself in millennia. Who else but Chronicle Books to release this title? Seriously, between them, Text, and Scribe, I’m in publishing awe.
*I won’t rant about Pooh, whom I even as a kid found annoyingly, patronisingly stupid. It astounds me that anyone liked or continues to like the tales and I think we should give kids more credit for their intelligence and give them interesting, articulate, un-bumbling protagonists. But I’m ranting …