I first learned about THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA on the agent’s* Twitter feed, but I didn’t decide to read it until I saw it crop up repeatedly in an impromptu Twitter survey of the best recent middle grade books. I figured if that many people recommended it, I should pick it up, too. I’m so glad I did. It’s a very quick read. I finished it in a few hours, and I loved every minute.
Here’s the description from the publisher:
In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.
And here are the five things I loved most about it:
1. The actual book – I’ve been reading a lot on my Kindle lately, and I’m so glad I got the actual book of ORIGAMI YODA. The pages look like crumpled paper, and the doodles in the margins are integral to the story. Then there are the comments at the end of each chapter. They’re set off in different fonts to make it clear who’s contributing. I’ve read a few illustrated books on my Kindle, and the illustrations end up feeling out of place. It probably works better on a tablet. In any case, it’s worth it to read this one in hardback.
2. The case files – I love the way this book is presented as a case file to discover whether Origami Yoda is real. There are numerous voices throughout the story, and each one is unique. I particularly enjoyed the entry from Kellan:
“All right, uh, this is Kellan here … Uh, Tommy asked me to, uh, write down what happened with Origami Yoda, but I, like, hate to write things down. That’s too much like homework, having to write a bunch of stuff down. And make complete sentences and all that. I’m like no thanks, dude. So I’m just going to record it on this … uh … recording thing and let Tommy write it down. So … uh … I guess you can edit out where I say … uhhh … and stuff like that.”
Tommy does edit out the “uhs” after that, but this excerpt is such a great indicator of both Kellan and Tommy’s characters. Just brilliant.
3. The familiarity – As I was reading, I felt I knew these characters in middle school. The weird guy who didn’t care what others thought. The girls giggling at the next table. The boys too afraid to ask the girls to dance. The bully. The obnoxious kid whose comments go almost too far. They’re real without being stereotypical.
4. The wrap-up – I won’t give away the ending, but everything ties together so well. It answers the opening question – Is Origami Yoda real? – in a very satisfying way. I know this book has turned into a series, and although there wasn’t any kind of cliffhanger, I’m definitely interested in what happens to these characters next and how Origami Yoda fits in.
5. The origami – When I was 11, we had two college exchange students from Japan who stayed with us for a month. They taught us some origami, and for a while my dad, brother and I were really into it. So when I saw there were instructions in the back of the book to make my own Origami Yoda, I had to do it. I think he turned out pretty well. What do you think?
I don’t do ratings of the books I feature, but if I did, this one would get the highest marks. Have you read it? Or the sequel? I’d love to hear if I should go pick that one up, too, although I suspect the answer will be yes. Or, in Origami Yoda’s words, “Read it you should.”
*Tom Angleberger is represented by Caryn Wiseman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.