Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Book)

Author: Tom Angleberger. Release date: 2010. Publisher:  Amulet Books. ISBN: 9780810984257.
Plot summary: Sixth-grader Tommy’s friend Dwight is in possession of a strange force known as Origami Yoda. Origami Yoda is a creation of Dwight’s, but seems to have a clairvoyance that is in stark contrast with Dwight’s utter quirkiness. Dwight does things like digging holes just to sit in them for hours before filling them in again. He always says odd things and doesn’t do well in school. But Origami Yoda is different. Although he resides on Dwight’s finger and his voice travels through Dwight, Yoda seems to have all the answers to the students of McQuarrie Middle School. But Tommy has a question for Origami Yoda so important, he can’t leave the answer to chance: does he have a chance with his crush, Sara. Tommy decides to create a case file of all the incidents involving Origami Yoda’s powers. With help from his friends, Kellen and Harvey, the file holds stories from those in the student body who have been impacted by Yoda’s words, whether positively or negatively. Will Tommy trust the wisdom of Origami Yoda enough to know what to do about Sara? Or is Origami Yoda simply another of Dwight’s weird creations?
Review:  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is an exceptionally entertaining story that, in actuality, is more about tween dynamics than oracles made of paper. Tommy is the primary narrator of the story, though each chapter, or “case,” can take the voice of many different students at McQuarrie Middle School. At the end of each case, Tommy’s cynical friend, Harvey, provides commentary (he believes Origami Yoda to be completely false). Tommy’s friend, Kellen, provides drawings throughout each case that illustrate various characters or Origami Yoda in action. The result of this combination of voices is a laugh-out-loud funny but sometimes touching story about fitting in and being different in middle school. It is clear that Dwight, the creator and voice of Origami Yoda, is far more perceptive than his peers believe him to be. Through his finger puppet, he guides his peers in the right direction, despite the fact that he is constantly ridiculed for being “strange.” The case of Origami Yoda is more the case of Dwight, the school outcast, and how those who are different can make good friends too. Tweens will likely pick up on this message while being entertained by the whacky illustrations and humor.
Genre: Ficton/Humor
Reading level: Grades 4-7
Similar titles:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.  
Personal thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book, possibly more than Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The characters are very likable, and I enjoyed being able to hear from the whole school, rather than experiencing the case of Origami Yoda through one person’s perspective. I look forward to more works from Tom Angleberger.    
Themes: Friendships, dynamics of middle school, being different, following your instincts, psychics/clairvoyance, Star Wars.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal and Booklist.  
Series Information:  N/A
Character information:
Tommy – The creator of the “case file” of Origami Yoda. He wants to determine Origami Yoda’s authenticity to determine if some advice given by Yoda concerning his crush, Sara, is accurate.
Kellen – Tommy’s friend, and co-contributor to the case file. He likes Rhondella and often seeks Origami Yoda’s advice about how to approach her.
Harvey – Tommy’s friend, and co-contributor to the case file. He is cynical and constantly doubting Origami Yoda’s “abilities.” He eventually constructs his own Origami Yoda to challenge the original.
Dwight – Creator of Origami Yoda. He is considered very strange by the rest of the school, and is often described as a “loser.” He is the voice of Origami Yoda, and wears the puppet on his finger.
Sara – Tommy’s crush, she has had her own experiences with Origami Yoda.
Rhondella – Kellen’s crush, she has had her own experiences with Origami Yoda.
Annotation:  Even if he has proved himself to be clairvoyant, how far can Tommy trust the advice of Origami Yoda? Does Origami Yoda really have the power to make sixth-grade that much easier by shedding light on events to come?   

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