Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

While the weather has been less than ideal, it has been an excellent summer to find books that can be read out loud to fourth and fifth graders!!!

My newest favorite is The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

It is funny, features male protagonists but will also appeal to girls, and has lots of Star Wars references. Huzzah!

Here's a review from the blog 100 Scope Notes:

What’s the next level above gold? Platinum? In both content and appearance, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is reluctant reader platinum. The Star Wars association will draw attention, but the spot-on portrayal of the awkwardness, friendships, and first crushes of 6th grade life will hit home.

The stage is set from the first lines:

"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?"

The evidence is inconclusive. He’s a finger puppet, true, but he also gives out some pretty incredible advice. Or does that advice actually come from Dwight, the outcast who created origami Yoda? Probably not – Dwight’s too weird to actually provide sound council. Tommy is determined to find out if the finger puppet can be trusted. He has a girl dilemma, you see, and needs some help. To get to the bottom of things, he’s put together firsthand accounts of his friends’ helpful, confusing, and odd interactions with Origami Yoda. Each chapter is a new anecdote, from a different perspective. When the middle school dance comes around, Tommy has to decide if he should listen to the tiny Jedi master or not.

Angleberger nails the tone here. The dialogue, the inside jokes, the mindset of an outsider – it just feels authentic. Fans of his solid Qwikpick Adventure Society will find Origami Yoda just as easy to relate to.

The interest level is high, the humor is frequent, and the situations authentic. A winner, appears to be, it does.

Here are some reviews from journals:

From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6 — For Tommy, the only question is whether or not Origami Yoda is real. Of course he's real as a small puppet on Dwight's finger. But does the oracle possess magic power? In order to find out, he decides to compile scientific evidence from the experiences of those who asked Origami Yoda for help. His friend Harvey is invited to comment on each story because he thinks Yoda is nothing but a "green paper wad." Tommy also comments because he's supposedly trying to solve the puzzle. In actuality, the story is about boys and girls in sixth grade trying to figure out how being social works. In fact, Tommy says, "…it's about this really cool girl, Sara, and whether or not I should risk making a fool of myself for her." The situations that Yoda has a hand in are pretty authentic, and the setting is broad enough to be any school. The plot is age-old but with the twist of being presented on crumpled pages with cartoon sketches, supposed hand printing, and varying typefaces. Kids should love it.

From Booklist
Tommy and his friends think that Dwight is a weirdo who’s “always talking about robots or spiders or something.” In true Dwight fashion, he shows up at school one day brandishing a little origami Yoda finger puppet. The really weird thing is that it doles out very un-Dwight-like bits of wisdom, and the mystery is whether the Yoda is just Dwight talking in a funny voice or if it actually has mystical powers. The book is structured as a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don’t. See, Tommy has a more vested interest than just idle curiosity—he is dying to know if he can trust Yoda’s advice about asking the cute girl to dance with him at the PTA Fun Night. Origami Yoda—a sort of talking cootie catcher—is the kind of thing that can dominate all those free moments in school for a few weeks. Angleberger’s rendering of such a middle-grade cultural obsession is not only spot-on but also reveals a few resonant surprises hidden in the folds. Naturally, Yoda-making instructions are included. Grades 4-6. --Ian Chipman

I recommended the book to Natalie, but am not sure whether she'll choose to read it. She's pretty intent on reading Rebecca Caudill nominees this summer!

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