Being a bit of an origami nerd, of course I couldn’t resist The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, just one of the treats in my box o’ Amulet books last week. Speaking of strange, it is strange that I have such a soft spot in my heart for Yoda. Strange because as a child, I was not allowed to watch Star Wars (Mom says this was due to the violence – this is an especially weird excuse given that when my sister and I were barely teenagers my mom decided we should all snuggle up one movie night and try watching Silence of the Lambs… but that’s a story for another day). Even now I have not yet watched all of the Stars Wars films. Still, Yoda charms me.
I think my fondness for Yoda comes in part from my darling nephew, who is nearly four and last Christmas got a set of Star Wars figures. We spent a good chunk of Boxing Day examining these figures, with me quizzing him, “And who’s this?” “And this?” “And this?” I was getting such a kick out of how serious he was, telling me their names over and over. And he didn’t seem to tire of it. He must have wondered if I was daft or something (“Didn’t I just tell you Auntie K? That’s Yoda,” he must have been thinking). I loved that he kept calling Luke, “Yooke.” Too. Cute.
But back to Origami Yoda, Tom Angleberger’s first book for Middle Grade readers. It’s about a nerdy kid named Dwight, who brings an origami finger puppet of Yoda to school and invites his classmates to ask Yoda for advice. Well, if you know anything about sixth graders, you can imagine that this is at the same time, a crazily geeky thing to do, and yet, completely irresistible to all concerned. It seems to many that Yoda’s advice actually works, but there are disbelievers. One of the kids, Tommy, decides that he needs to get to the bottom of this, and figure out if the puppet can be trusted before he takes Yoda’s advice about a certain cute girl. Each chapter in the book is a piece of evidence in his investigation into the case of origami Yoda, documenting instances where Yoda apparently saved the day. There are funny doodles throughout by Angleberger and Jason Rosenstock and instructions at the back for how to make your own origami Yoda. (Teachers around the country say thanks Tom. Thanks so much . He is a cute little fella though, no denying it).
Star Wars-crazed kids will no doubt enjoy this story, but I think that if others give it a go as well, they will find there is a lot in there to relate to. That’s because it really is mostly about the dynamic between the students, and the way that in middle school, something apparently small can build and take on a life of its own beyond anything anybody ever intended or imagined. It’s very readable, and kid-focused. There isn’t really much of an adult presence in the narrative, and that’s true to the school world of most kids in grade six. Adults are very much in the background. The fact that many of the chapters work as their own mini-stories made for fast reading. I think Angleberger succeeds with the voice of this age group. The kids really sounded like sixth-graders. Of course it’s appealing that Dwight, who is as nerdy as they come, is not completely marginalized by his peers and actually finds a way to integrate by the end. Very “nerd power.” Is that realistic? Not so much. Does that ruin the story? No. I like the way it might suggest to readers that even the geekiest kid in the room has something to offer, maybe something creative or insightful or just plain fun.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is quirky and funny and it has a light saber on the cover.
Here’s Tom with instructions on making your own green guru:
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is published by Amulet, an imprint of Abrams.