A long time ago, in a town a decent distance from where I live now, I watched my first Star Wars film at the age of four, and it’s been one of the guiding Forces (ha, get it?) in my life ever since. I love the saga with ever fiber of my being, and it’s influenced me in countless ways. I could go on and on.
However, until two weeks ago, I had never read Tom Angleberger’s middle grade novel The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, despite him being the writer-in-residence at my graduate program this summer, hand selling the book numerous times in the toy store, and having a mother and brother who absolutely adore it. (Sometimes there are those books that are right up your alley, but you’ve just never gotten around to reading, right?)
And then I read it for class. And loved it. This is the summary, straight from Goodreads:
Meet Dwight, a sixth-grade oddball. Dwight does a lot of weird things, like wearing the same T-shirt for a month or telling people to call him “Captain Dwight.” This is embarrassing, particularly for Tommy, who sits with him at lunch every day.
But Dwight does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. And that’s when things get mysterious. Origami Yoda can predict the future and suggest the best way to deal with a tricky situation. His advice actually works, and soon most of the sixth grade is lining up with questions.
Tommy wants to know how Origami Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. Is Yoda tapping into the Force? It’s crucial that Tommy figure out the mystery before he takes Yoda’s advice about something VERY IMPORTANT that has to do with a girl.
The novel is written in first person, through different “case file” entries from the perspective of different characters at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School, each of whom relates an instance in which Origami Yoda either helped them out or led them astray. Tommy (the main narrator) and Harvey (one of his friends) write comments at the end of each case file; Tommy usually argues for the side of Light, trying to give explanations for the events that support the idea that Origami is actually real and not just Dwight pulling a trick on them, while Harvey tends more toward the Dark side, trying to poke holes in his friend’s theories. Kellan, another character, doodles on the pages, too. The whole book, in fact, might be considered a great study in character voices!
Just enough details are given to make the reader question what’s going on with Dwight and his Origami Yoda–significantly, we never hear from Dwight himself in any book until the last, according to the author–and Tom Angleberger (who is a huuuuuuge Star Wars fan himself) has packed the book (and probably the whole series) full of references. For instance, the school? Named after one of the concept artists for the original trilogy. At its core, this is really a school story, sort of about navigating middle school, and sort of about the weirdness of yourself, which I think we need more than ever. The puzzle pieces that are Origami Yoda’s prophecies slot together perfectly by the ending, and like the sixth graders of the school, you’ll be left wondering whether this finger puppet really can use the Force.
And then, like me, you can read the rest of the series as fast as you can to find out the answer in the final book, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus.
(For the record, I fully believe in Origami Yoda. And in Tom Angleberger, who I watched give a talk and make his own Origami Yoda in about two seconds, then throw it over his shoulder when he usurped a better one–the kid gave it to him–from someone in the crowd. It was one of the funniest author moment’s I’ve witnessed. He’s in tune with what kids want out of a book, and man can he deliver.)