Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

The big question: Is Origami Yoda real?

Well, of course he's real. I mean, he's a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper.

But I mean: Is he REAL? Does he really know things? Can he see the future? Does he use the Force?

Or is he just a hoax that fooled a whole bunch of us at McQuarrie Middle School?

So begins The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger. And the central question, of whether Origami Yoda really knows things revolves around his "animator," the school's oddest kid, Dwight. The argument is simply that Dwight is too weird to give good advice, otherwise he wouldn't be so weird, right? And yet Tommy and his friends Kellen and Harvey begin tracking Origami Yoda's patients -- or victims -- to see whether he is the real deal or not.

This book brings up a number of middle school issues -- the kid who cries in P.E., the kids with the awful nickname, the kid dealing with an embarrassing crisis, the kid who wants to see an R-rated movie his parents have nixed, the boy who likes the girl who might not like him -- each handled by Origami Yoda. It's nicely done, all woven neatly into the mystery of Origami Yoda, which makes it more factual and less melodramatic than it might have been.

I think this one will play equally well with boys and girls, but especially with boys for a couple reasons. There's the obvious Star Wars theme, which will appeal to boys, it's loaded with doodles ala Wimpy Kid, and the main characters are all boys. Each chapter is a first person account by Tommy or one of his friends; a few are also by girls they know, but most of the story is told by boys. This would make an excellent Christmas gift for 7-12 year olds on your list, especially if they're boys.

The writing style is easier than I expected: Accelerated Reader puts it at a 4.7 (4th grade and 7 months) which seems about right. My 7 year old and my 9 year old read it over the holiday weekend and both really liked it. They especially liked the instructions at the back of the book for folding your own Origami Yoda. Having spent last Saturday folding little paper Yodas, I can offer you this advice if you find yourself in a similar situation: start with half of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper cut or torn neatly to a 5.5 x 8.5 rectangle, then follow the approximate proportions shown in the diagrams instead of the measurements as they didn't actually work that well. The author's website offers instructions for folding an origami Yoda like the one on the cover if you're up for a challenge.

Get this book you must. Enjoy it you will.


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  2. Here are some more cool star-wars origami: