by Tom Angleberger
141 pages, Amulet Books
Silly, this book is. Laugh you will. Cry you will probably not. Be amazed you may. Fun to write this way it is. Too long this title has become.
Review by SF Winser
Tommy is in middle school. He hangs about with some of the less popular kids, though he's not a total outcast. One of the kids he sits with, however, is almost that far gone.
Dwight is eccentric to say the least. Dwight doesn't care about what anyone thinks of him. Not even his teachers. Sometimes Dwight seems hyper-smart. Usually he seems hyper-dumb. He gets straight As in math and straight Fs in everything else. The kind of kid who eats so many canned peaches at lunch that it makes him spew.... because he felt like eating enough peaches to make him spew. Or who wipes up spilled drink with the shirt he's still wearing. One thing he is good at, is origami. He even makes up his own origami patterns.
One day Dwight creates an origami Yoda, henceforth known with the honorific capital: Origami Yoda. This would be cool, except that, being Dwight, he does a bad Yoda impression and starts wandering the school, with Origami Yoda on the end of his finger like a finger-puppet, giving silly advice to random people. He even gets in trouble in class for refusing to remove Origami Yoda from his finger.
The thing is... somehow... this un-asked for advice seems to be perfect. Almost wise.
Dwight, the total loser, can't be responsible. Especially since Dwight has knowingly disobeyed Origami Yoda's advice... and been stung for it. There has to be more going on than that.
Tommy is determined to find out if Origami Yoda is lucky, psychic or just weird.
He needs to know because Origami Yoda's most recent piece of advice is for Tommy to ask out the girl he likes. A girl who Tommy knows is well out of his league. So Tommy has put together this book – a casefile – of his and other's encounters with Origami Yoda's sage (and sometimes plain weird) advice. One of his friends is skeptical and provides chapter notes at the end. Another of his friends is good at drawing and illustrates the casefile. Other kids in the school provide chapters, or recordings or txt messages of what happened when they asked Origami Yoda for advice. It's all evidence for Tommy to weigh in deciding whether or not to ask Sara to the dance.
And that's the rather cute set-up. It's aimed straight at the 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' readership with its heavily-illustrated, middle-school worries and happenings.
Though it's rather short, 'The Strange Case of Origami Yoda' is actually pretty damn funny. Even better, it's rather clever. What seems like a few thematically linked short stories - the story of Origami Yoda and the Snapped Pencils, the story of Origami Yoda and the Cheetos Hog and so forth - start to feed into each other and, at the end, we find we've actually been shown a set of clues to a bigger mystery that weaves throughout the entire book. While it's an obvious thing to compare this to 'Wimpy Kid...' I think I like the characters and plotting and even the jokes better in this. It's a shorter book, but a better one. It's both unexpectedly smart and cheerfully silly. It even includes instructions on how to make a 'simple' Origami Yoda.
I read this in two short sittings and enjoyed myself immensely. I've been stressed that I had to go to work today because it meant that I had to wait before writing this review and telling you Squawk—Readers all about it. It's an excellent piece of junior fiction, aimed mainly at older boys and young ‘tween males. But I'm pretty sure it'll get a bit of happy gender cross-over and age-drift. There are plenty of references only die-hard Star Wars geeks and adults will get. I'm already looking forward to the sequel 'Darth Paper Strikes Back'.