Junior Novel Review – “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”
TITLE: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Tom Angleberger
PUBLISHER: Amulet Books
RELEASED: March 2010
I’m not a guy who’s great at making things with his hands, so I’ve never even thought about taking up origami (the Japanese art of paper folding). But The Strange Case of Origami Yoda prompts me to at least consider it.
Joking aside, Origami Yoda is a fun little book about a sixth grade oddball named Dwight who wears an origami Yoda finger-puppet that gives amazingly good advice to his classmates. Our main narrator is Tommy, one of Dwight’s classmates, who is assembling a “case file” on whether this puppet can actually see the future, or is simply Dwight playing a joke.
Throughout the book, Tommy hands the narrator reigns to several other middle-schoolers, who talk about their own interactions with Dwight and the puppet, and how its words affected them. Nothing too heavy (it’s not a Dr. Phil puppet after all). When’s the next pop quiz, how to I get rid of this stain, what words are they going to ask in the spelling bee, stuff like that.
One of the cool things about this book is that through the words of “Yoda,” Angleberger inserts little moral lessons about honesty, dignity, friendship, and the need to take chances in life. But they come at you from the sides, as opposed to having Angleberger beat you over the head with them. I appreciated that.
It has to be said though, that the book has something of a problem with bad dialogue at times. Maybe that’s just my lack of experience with recent young adult fiction talking. But even in sixth grade, I’d have rolled my eyes at an author telling me that someone my age was saying things like “malarky” or “What’s his major malfunction?” I get that adults aren’t always tuned into what slang kids are using, but c’mon, really?
Most of the book’s interior art consists of doodles done by Angleberger. They’re not going to win any awards, but they’re funny, charming, and the Star Wars geek in me enjoyed some of the little inside jokes he included for junior fanboys (There’s no K in “Sarlac Pit”).
As an adult, you’d have to be a pretty big grump to not at least crack a smile or two when reading Origami Yoda. As a kid, chances are you’ll find something to relate to. One of the best things Angleberger did very well here, the occasional bad line notwithstanding, is tap into some of the experiences that are almost universal for middle school kids. And the broader that scope is, the more people you’re going to reach. I wouldn’t call Angleberger a Jedi Master yet, but he’s definitely a Knight.
By the way, don’t let the cover mislead you. Origami Yoda does NOT have a little origami lightsaber. I know, right? How’s he supposed to defend himself against origami Count Dooku in Origami Yoda: Episode II – Attack of the Cardboard Clones?