Sci-fi book fair in Vancouver draws fans of all ages

'Star Wars' theme brings a crowd to Shahala Middle School event

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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R2-D2, Stormtroopers and Jedis could be found Thursday evening by the bookshelves at the Shahala Middle School library.

Kids and adults crowded into the sci-fi family night and book fair in east Vancouver, joyfully geeking out as they made origami Yodas and paper light sabers, played a game of "Star Wars" foosball and pored over science-fiction titles in the Scholastic Book fair.

"I need to find my light saber. I set it down, and don't know where it is," said Shahala librarian and teacher Paul Warner.

The librarian organized the event to promote literacy in the community and to raise money to buy more books for the library.

"When I was their age, 'Star Wars' came out," Warner said, adding that the movie series became his gateway to reading.

Parents at the event held similar sentiments.

"'Star Wars' seems to be a good access point," said Gregg Brown. "It's a great opportunity to expose children to science fiction."

He brought his niece, Haley Boys, 9. The best part of her night was meeting Star Wars characters — R2-D2 is her favorite. The life-size robot booped and bopped all night as people posed with him.

Sci-fi and fantasy books dominate middle school student interest, Warner says, judging by a Darth Vader helmet in the library that continually fills with requests for titles in those genres.

After hosting the sci-fi night at Pacific Middle School for two years, kids and parents asked Warner to incorporate more real science into the event.

James Cantonwine's science classes developed projects that connected movie make-believe with science.

Tri-fold posters explained the gamma rays in "The Hulk," cloning in "Jurassic Park," and how the invention of cellphones in 1973 was inspired by Capt. Kirk's "gold phone" communicator that appeared on "Star Trek" in 1966. Science fiction can be inspiration for science.

But the answer to the burning question — can actual light sabers be constructed? — is, unfortunately, no.

"If it's not real yet, it can be," Warner said.

The event was free, but volunteers accepted donations both to purchase more books and supplies for Shahala and to benefit Crestline Elementary School. Warner called the school's librarian the day after the school burned down last month and said he would help out.

Judging by the boisterous crowd, the costumes and the excited chatter about Darth Vader, the night was a success.

As R2-D2 would say: "Waaahoooooo!"