Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda #1) by Tom Angleberger

Dwight is an extremely weird 6th grader who makes an origami puppet of Yoda from "Star Wars" and uses it to dole out wise advice to his friends. The students are convinced Yoda is magical because they know Dwight is a fool and idiot. Or is he? Tommy desperately wants to know if Origami Yoda is real or a hoax. He puts together "case files" that document Origami Yoda giving advice that has kept other students from making fools out of themselves. Can't say I've ever come across a premise like that in a book! Not only does the author pull off the goofy kid with a puppet, he gives the characters depth along with plenty of belly-laughs. Diary of a Wimpy kid lovers need to give this one a go.

Several different points of view are presented from boys and girls as incidents are revealed where Origami Yoda helps students with different problems. Mike is frustrated with baseball. He strikes out every time and cries. He asks Origami Yoda to help him hit the ball and Yoda says, "Let go of your feelings, Mike. Hate and revenge to the dark side only lead." Next time Mike is up to bat he tries not to get mad and strikes out. Afterwards he charges up to Dwight and asks, "Well?" Yoda said, "Cry you did not." Mike doesn't learn to hit the ball, but he does learn to stay positive with himself at the plate and as a result get walks. Dwight gets Mike to focus on effort versus outcome that leads to him not being so frustrated in P.E. class when they play ball.

Angleberger captures the unique voice of middle schoolers and summarizes chapters with funny comments from Harvey and Mike. This cleverly reinforces chapter points helping the reader who is working toward fluency. The doodles and sketches throughout are great visualizations and also add to the humor of the story. The Principal, Mr. Howell, does look like Jabba the Hutt. I liked the voice of the character, Kellen, as he tries to tell his story. He begins, "All right, uh, this is Kellen here...Uh, Tommy asked me to, uh, write down what happened with Origami Yoda, but I, like, hate to write things down. That's too much like homework, having to write a bunch of stuff down. And make complete sentences and all that. I'm like no thanks, dude. So I'm just going to record it on this ...uh...recording thingy and let Tommy write it down. So...uh...I guess you can edit out where I say ...uhhh... and stuff like that." Oompah-pah. I'm glad Angleberger didn't do the whole chapter like that. It would have been hard to read. He puts in the right mix of slang and lets the different personalities of the kids emerge through the dialogue that is well-done.

Dwight is a doofus, which is why his friends can't figure out if Origami Yoda is real or not. He does things like accidentally knocks a girl's drink on the dance floor only to lay on top of the puddle scootching across it on his stomach. He jumps up and continues his herky-jerky dancing with a wet stain across his shirt. Not cool, Tommy thinks. But that's Dwight. He wears shorts with his socks pulled up over his knees, picks his nose, and does other odd things that label him a loser. When he invents his alter ego in Origami Yoda, he teaches others to accept him for his eccentricities and stop calling him names. Throughout the chapters, Dwight or Origami Yoda, point out when the others are being mean and because they are so desperate for Yoda's advice they apologize and slowly start to change their behavior toward Dwight. By the end when Dwight is dancing with a girl who might become a girlfriend, Tommy, Kellen, and Harvey realize not only did Origami Yoda give him attention from others who used to ignore him, but he played matchmaker to many other students, and did many good things for others.

Dwight represents the light side of the Force from the movie, "Star Wars" that has ideals of acting wisely, being positive, and living in harmony with the world rather than being angry, negative, and judgmental. Dwight helps students deal with problems whether that is finding a solution after accidentally breaking a teacher's Shakespeare head to covering up a spot on your pants that looks like pee to dealing with girls, dances, and friendships. Harvey, on the other hand, represents the dark side of the Force focusing on negative emotions such as aggression, fear, and anger. He spews negativity preying on self-doubts that keep Tommy from taking a risk and asking a girl to dance, complaining about Dwight's Yoda as being fake and him being uncool, and calling people names and being mean to others. The slow change in Tommy and other students accepting Dwight for his unique ways is a lesson in tolerance. Harvey can't tolerate Dwight because he can only focus on how he is scamming everyone versus how he is causing good and helping others. This message makes the book stand out from other funny books giving it depth and making it memorable.

Fountas and Pinnell Service: T
Reading Level 4.1

5 Smileys

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