The Origami Rebellion – A Review of The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Well how about this? Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books, which obviously make use of characters and imagery from both Star Wars trilogies, now comprise a trilogy themselves. I think we all know what this means! Look for the three books to be released on Blu-ray next year, with freshly enhanced picture and sound, a CGI elephant that’s inserted into the cantina scene for no apparent reason, and an audio commentary with way too much Ben Burtt…
In The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, Dwight, the eccentric originator of the mysterious Origami Yoda finger puppet at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School, has been transferred to a different school. This is much to the chagrin of Tommy, Kellen, and most of the other students. But Tommy’s crush Sara swoops in to fill the void with her very own “Fortune Wookiee,” a paper fortune teller made to look like Chewbacca, complete with its own “Han Foldo” to translate the grunts and growls. As Origami Yoda used to do, the Fortune Wookiee gives out little gems of advice to the kids, helping them through various predicaments. Meanwhile, Dwight isn’t acting so eccentric anymore. In fact, he’s downright normal! What’s happened to McQuarrie’s resident Jedi Master? And will Origami Yoda ever be seen again?
On the surface, I imagine it’s easy to write these books off as an author’s clever attempt to hook kids into his origami story by dressing it up with Star Wars characters. Heck, for all I know that was his mindset. Thankfully, the books are such delightfully quirky messages about creativity, individuality and friendship, that all the Star Wars jokes and references are simply a delicious icing on the cake. If you’re a third grader who spots this book, Chewbacca’s picture gets you to pick it up, but you put it down thinking about all those things. That’s the formula, at least. And it seems to be working given the great success of the series.
In Wookiee, Angleberger builds on a foundation he planted in Darth Paper about how closed-minded school administrators can unintentionally stifle, if not altogether stomp out, the creative spirits of young people by forcing them think inside a box that’s too small for them. He throws in a time-tested plot point about the arts as a whole that will no doubt spark Tommy, Dwight and the other characters to form a little Rebel Alliance of their own in the next book.
The only thing in this book I wasn’t sure about was the way the kids acted. Tommy and the others are supposed to be in 7th grade by now. It’s been awhile since I was a junior high kid, and ultimately what matters is that these books are written for elementary school kids. But when I was a 7th grader, I doubt I would have been so impressed with an origami finger puppet, much less be convinced that one actually had magic powers. If the characters are going to act like naive elementary school kids, then why not just make them naive elementary school kids? What would change in the story? Tommy and Sara’s pseudo romance maybe. But at this point it’s innocent enough that it really wouldn’t effect much. I will admit however, that I could be off base on this one. And I’m definitely not up for going back to middle school to research the topic further…
All in all, another solid outing by Angleberger. Fortune Wookie isn’t as strong as Darth Paper was, but it opens the door for some really interesting content for next time. Let the paper folding continue!
Front page image from starwars.com. Interior image from torwars.blogspot.com.