Last year I came across a rather oddly titled book — The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger. The title alone was enough to spark my interest, but the blog posts I read about it convinced me that I should buy myself a copy. (Check out my post “Following the blog posts to Origami Yoda”.) I’m so glad I did. It is a charmingly original and highly entertaining read.
It’s a children’s novel about a group of middle school kids and an origami Yoda puppet. One particularly weird kid named Dwight, brings the origami Yoda to school and starts dispensing advice. Miraculously, his advice turns out to be very helpful and so the kids begin to wonder if this finger puppet really is imbued with the power of the Force.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda was a runaway success. So now we have the second instalment, Darth Paper Strikes Back.
But now Origami Yoda has to contend with the power of the dark side — in the form of Darth Paper, a new origami puppet on the finger of a rival kid named Harvey. Darth (and Harvey) manipulate a situation to ensure that Dwight is suspended from school and threatened with the possibility of being sent to a school for difficult students. So now, it’s up to Dwight’s friends to build a case to present to the school board in the hopes of saving Dwight and his origami Yoda.
As you would expect, both books are chock full of Star Wars references — some obvious, others more obscure. Even the school names, such as McQuarrie Middle School, are references. But these references never overshadow the storytelling and are very much in context.
I loved the first book, and my biggest fear was that the sequel would simply be a cash-in. I am relieved to say that it is not. Darth Paper Strikes Back recaptures the charm and interest of the first. The main characters are likeable and each gets his/her time in the spotlight.
This book is also interesting for it depiction of the American public school system and its bureaucracy. It is not at all complimentary. In fact, it is this bureaucracy that is the real villain in the story.
Without actually giving away the ending, I need to mention that I love the way things are resolved. There is no neat contrived solution in which the evil Empire of bureaucracy is defeated. Yes, things work out for the main characters, and yes, Dwight gets a happy ending… but it is brought about through a decision to no longer engage with the enemy. It is a very satisfying ending.
I’m now hoping there will be a third book.
You definitely need at least a passing familiarity with the Star Wars films to enjoy these books. But you don’t need to be a hard-core fan. While there are many obscure references, not getting them all will not hamper your enjoyment of the story.
If you’d like to find out more about these books and their author, Tom Angelberger, check out the Origami Yoda website.
May the Force be with you, George
PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll send the origami Imperial troops around to your place.
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