Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda & Darth Paper Strikes Back

Everyone in McQuarrie Middle School's sixth grade thought Origami Yoda was just some really cool paper folding.  That is, until his Jedi wisdom turned out to be really good advice that Dwight, his creator, couldn't possibly come up with.  Could it be that his powers are real? Later on, in the seventh grade, Origami Yoda's greatest detractor shows up with Darth Paper.  Soon Dwight is in danger of getting kicked out of school!  Then everyone will lose Origami Yoda's advice!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and its sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back, by Tom Angleberger are an Indie Bestselling series.  They are also Left Bank Books' holiday pick for Best Books for Boys 8-12.

The first book is comprised of a case study designed to investigate whether Origami Yoda truly possesses Jedi powers.  Each chapter is a personal testimonial from a member of the sixth grade about how Origami Yoda's advice has touched them.  This is followed by a brief rebuttal from the skeptic Harvey and a statement from Tommy, the case study's mastermind.  Kellen doesn't like to write, so he provides illustrations in the margins.  The writing is fast-paced; mostly straightforward, with enough humor and variety in styles between characters to be really engrossing.  The illustrations are amusing and instructions to create your own Origami Yoda are included.  Written between the lines is a great lesson:  Although it's never explicitly stated, it becomes evident that Dwight likely suffers from some form of mental health issues.  While he is obviously very intelligent and creative with a lot of empathy, he has a lot of difficulty communicating with his classmates and relating to them in everyday situations.  The characters' reactions to his various strange behaviors are realistic for the age group and provide talking points for issues kids may see in their own social groups.

Book Two picks up the next school year.  Dwight's antagonist Harvey appears with Darth Paper, intent on taking down Origami Yoda.  Soon he has talked one of the popular girls into interpreting Yoda's advice as a threat and reporting Dwight to the principal.  From there, procedures to have Dwight transferred to Correctional and Remedial Education are started.  It's up to Tommy and Kellen to put together another case study to show Dwight and Origami Yoda's benefit to the school.  This installment includes instructions to make Darth Paper and an emergency 5-fold Yoda.  The subtle theme of this book is the dangers of teaching for the test while ignoring students' unique qualities, with the administration treating Dwight as a problem to solve rather than recognizing his strengths.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is published by Amulet Books and Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book is published by Harry N. Abrams.  They retail for $12.95 each.  I bought my copies with my own money.  You can get your copies from Left Bank Books today!  Of both books!

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