Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Book review by Monica Friedman
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Origami Yoda is, in one sense, a wholly believable character: “he’s a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper.” On the other hand, what Tommy and some of his friends want to know is how much credence should they give to Origami Yoda? It’s true that he’s given some good advice and offered some predictions that came true, but can they really take advice from a finger puppet, especially when that puppet is controlled by the biggest loser in sixth grade?
Grown-up readers will probably recognize the affliction suffered by Origami Yoda’s handler, Dwight, a casebook Asperger’s kid who gets all A’s in math and designs his own origami pattern, but who “never seems to do anything right. Always in trouble. Always getting harassed by other kids. Always picking his nose. Always finding a way to ‘ruin it for everyone,’ as the teachers say.”
Even though Tommy sits with Dwight every day at lunch, he can’t help but wish that Dwight would, once in a while, “listen to Origami Yoda’s wisdom.” But Dwight is a special kind of loser in Tommy’s book, one who “manages to turn his good points into loser points.”
How? Well, according to Tommy, “it’s one thing to make a paper Yoda, and it’s another thing to ask people to talk to it.”
But, Origami Yoda has offered up wisdom far beyond what anyone considers Dwight capable of. All of sixth grade, except for Tommy’s friend, Harvey, who wants to kick Dwight out of his seat at their lunch table, has begun to ask Origami Yoda for the wisdom of the ages.
All Tommy wants to know is whether or not he should ask Sara to dance at the next PTA Fun Night, where no one ever has fun.
To that end, he compiles a dossier of first-person accounts:
For every story, Harvey adds his own scathing criticism, while Tommy tries to inject a little more balance into the experiment. Their friend Kellen, who doesn’t like writing and instead dictates his stories into a tape recorder, adds cartoon drawings that “almost look like people from school” to every page.
As a whole, the novel is really fair and balanced. Dwight’s social incompetence is documented in detail, as is Tommy’s dawning understanding that Dwight’s experience and understanding of the world are different from his own, and that being normal doesn’t always translate into social success.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda follows the trend for middle-grade books of creating the appearance of being written and illustrated by a preadolescent kid. A variety of fonts, some of them handwritten, blend in with artifacts (like the posters for the PTA Fun Nights and Dwight’s unsigned In-School Suspension Slips for refusing to remove Origami Yoda in class) that appear to be taped to the page. Kellen’s silly illustrations and pages printed with wrinkles on them, giving the appearance of something that was crumpled at the bottom of a kid’s backpack, belie the crisp and worldly intelligence of Origami Yoda.
Read an interview Monica did with Origami Yoda author Tom Angleberger.
Read more of Monica's reviews.
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