Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Critique giveaway open through October 31! Scroll down one post.

Neither sixth-grader Tommy nor his friends are very high on the popularity scale, so when his friend Dwight does a typical weirdo-Dwight thing, like come to school with an origami-folded Yoda on his finger, no one is really surprised. What is surprising is that Yoda gives advice--actual Yoda advice on all sorts of sixth-grade subjects that really works, not weirdo-Dwight advice. So that means Dwight can't be doing the talking for Yoda, right? If Dwight were that savvy, he could fix his own life. Wanting an answer of his own about asking pretty Sara to dance at PTA Fun Night, Tommy decides to make a case study of kids' experiences with Yoda: Is he Yoda, or is he Dwight?

Each chapter is written by a different kid, in a different typeface, ending with commentary by Tommy (the objective researcher) and his friend Harvey (the doubter who calls the figure "Paperwad Yoda"). The sixth-grade voices are real and funny, and the margins are decorated with funny sketches in the style of the Wimpy Kid books.

The show-don't-tell in this book is wonderful. Even Tommy thinks he's making his case study to find out if he should risk "making a fool" of himself for Sara, when really the book is about social pecking order and how it's determined. Tommy sees his specific dilemma but not the bigger picture, which is there to be picked up but never forced. Dwight, of course, is anything but dumb; who he really is (clever enough to give the Yoda advice) is there to be seen for those who will see it, yet any who do see it will think it's their own idea that Dwight's okay socially, which will bring Dwight better regard and more self-respect than trying to mimic or run after the cool clique would.

The humor in this book is funny rather than derogatory, and the cultural aspects of the story hit the bull's-eye: the Yoda figure is just the type of thing that can capture all sorts of attention among sixth-graders for a couple of weeks or so. Origami Yoda folding instructions included. A fun book with a subtle, realistic message.

11 comments:

Anna said...

This one has been on my list every since I heard about it. Thanks for the review - it sounds great.

annebingham said...

Sounds like a fun read, Marcia. I just reserved it at the library.

Vijaya said...

This is something my son will enjoy very much. Thanks for the recommendation.

Marcia said...

Anna -- I wasn't sure what to make of the title at first, but when I read the hook I was, well, hooked. :)

Anne -- It IS fun. It just bursts with kid appeal.

Vijaya -- I agree that it will get boys as well as girls reading!

Christina Klizen said...

Loved it and surprisingly my daughter who normally doesn't like in-text illustrations really liked it also.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

It sounds like a fun read....Thanks for sharing, Marcia. :-)

Jackee said...

This book looked so funny and I've had it on my TBR for far too long. Thanks for the rec, Marcia!

Marcia said...

Christine -- Glad your daughter liked it. I'd be curious to know why a kid doesn't like in-text illos! I imagine they'd be pretty popular.

Sharon -- I really felt the sixth-grade characters were right on.

Jackee -- It does LOOK funny. I think the cover is a big draw.

Laura Pauling said...

I absolutely loved this book! the humor was outstanding!

Marcia said...

Laura, I loved the humor too. And I think my favorite part was just Dwight's entire ploy for changing his social status. Brilliant.

Mary Witzl said...

I've only just heard of this book, but it sounds like one my kids would have loved at this age -- they're still into origami, so who knows? If I get it, they may well pick it up and read it too, especially if it's funny.