The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
by Tom Angleberger (2010)
Don’t judge this book by its cover!
I know what you’re thinking. A Star Wars character? It’ll only interest boys and Star Wars geeks. A puppet? Little cartoon doodles in the margins? A comic book masquerading as a book trying to entice or trick less interested readers. Right?
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is quite unexpectedly so much more than these reasonable assumptions…
It’s the story of Tommy, the narrator, and Dwight, the ‘loser geek’ who makes a little origami puppet of Yoda, the wise, sage master from Star Wars. Dwight, whom no one would ever really listen to normally, begins dispensing strange, mysterious, koanic, yet somehow also wise advice through the medium of his Yoda finger puppet. He shares his advice and wisdom with all comers. Everyone is skeptical. Everyone! And yet somehow, through the magic and artifice of Tom Angleberger, little Origami Yoda’s advice starts to make sense and make everyone’s life a little better.
Origami Yoda is set in your typical middle school. There are male and female cliques. The middle school boys are nervous about talking to girls. There are jocks. And a bully. And rule-bound teachers. This is a familiar environment for challenges small and challenges great. And for lessons.
The story is delivered creatively via Tommy’s “case file”; a series of reports from various members of his school – boys and girls – describing their respective moments and epiphanies with Origami Yoda.
But what’s most astounding is how useful and effective Origami Yoda’s advice turns out to be. It is both wise and endearing. His pronouncements leave all students thinking, “What could he mean?” – until they divine what new options and choices his advice presents. In that sense, it becomes an educationally valuable book, one that will spark conversations across your elementary or middle school. Students will be asking or telling each other about their own moments and challenges, and perhaps imagining or applying what Origami Yoda’s advice might be.
Read through four chapters and see if you agree. (Be sure to get through “Origami Yoda and the Home Run.”) Imagine your school charmed and beguiled by the unexpected wisdom of Origami Yoda. “Surprised you may be.”