Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca of Star Wars, graciously offered us the time and space to photograph him for the Austin Public Library's 2013 Read poster. After our initial greeting, the Mayhew’s welcomed us into their office and the space where their extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia was kept. Chewbacca furry dolls, photos of Peter with various Star Wars characters and fan art lined the wall.
Soon the quiet of the room was dispersed by the giggles and the chattering of children from the 501st Legion dressed up as various aliens and heroes from the famous film. This fledgling generation seems as captivated by the film’s magic as the ones coming before it. When Mr. Mayhew entered the room a hush fell over the children. Peter walked slowly with his beautiful light saber walking cane and carefully sat in a stately chair that he brought over from England.
Mr. Mayhew then brought his full attention to the children sitting in awe around him. He said hello and asked them how they are doing. Peter went on to read his story aloud to the children. We had planned to take photos of the children and Mr. Mayhew reading books, but we didn't expect to be lucky enough to have the treat of Mr. Mayhew reading his own story aloud.
I had never seen him as animated as he was talking to the children. He made silly faces and the children sat aptly listening to the story of Peter as a child. Growing up as a giant did not sound easy. I had never heard his story before. It is an inspiring one of hardship and amazing success. The young Star Wars fans sat quietly through the whole story. The only wiggling was when the baby Ewok wanted her mom again in the middle of the story. We were absolutely impressed by their polite behavior.
At the end of the shoot, Mr. Mayhew signed memorabilia for the young listeners. They were absolutely thrilled. It was a real treat for the kids to get to hang out with Mr. Mayhew. One of the parents awarded Peter with a pendent for his work with the Wounded Warrior Project. The honest gratefulness and the honor between them was moving.
Throughout the photo shoot, Peter was often a very quiet man of few words. When we went to say our goodbyes and chat with his family, I was taken by surprise when Mr. Mayhew spoke. We were talking about their work with charities. Peter spoke up to affirm the need to help children. He seems to have a soft spot for projects that help children.
Mr. Mayhew is currently recovering from knee surgery. Being a giant is not easy on the body, especially as you grow older. Thank you to Mr. Mayhew and the children of the 501st Legion and we hope Peter has a speedy recovery!
Growing Up Giant is a graphic novel based on the true story of war and shortages faced by a young giant on his journey to find a place in the world. Intended for older children and adults -- Author's website.
My Favorite Giant is a whimsical adventure that highlights the differences in people as being a strength instead of a weakness. Written for younger children, it's message of acceptance is universal. - Author's website.