You know how you read certain books and then want to tell others to go out and read that book right now? That’s how I have felt the last week or so since I finished reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. When Dwight makes a Yoda out of paper and puts it on his finger and offers advice, the 6th grade starts to ask him questions. Tommy is a boy who is compiling the case file of all the ways in which Origami Yoda has helped his classmates. He needs to know if Origami Yoda can be trusted, because he has a very important question to ask him.
Each chapter of the book tells someone’s story in his or her own words usually, about how Origami Yoda helped them. Tommy comments on the story, generally in support of Origami Yoda, whereas Harvey, the naysayer, takes the other side.
There are so many things that I love about this book. I think it calls for a list:
- The characters are real. They are neither overly astute nor overly witty. They are typical 6th graders (who can be pretty astute and witty in reality).
- Differences are pointed out, yet not mocked. Dwight, the maker of and the voice for Origami Yoda, is a little weird. It’s an empirical fact that is presented by some of the weird things he does, not something that is shared in a harsh judgmental sort of way. This is one of the things that makes the characters seem so real (in a mom-approved sort of way). The uglier reality is that some students are weird and in some books they are mocked for it. The message that came across to me was that we are all different, and it’s okay, but since the toad didn’t turn into a prince overnight it comes across as a real experiential lesson, not a fairy tale.
- This book screams “read me, even if you don’t like to read.” It’s short — about 140 pages with text that isn’t too dense. It has little doodles in the margins, and a cool rumpled paper effect on the actual pages. It’s funny. The writing style is conversational (which means it would be a fun family read-aloud as well).
- Tween readers who want to read YA (I’m thinking of younger middle school girls here) can read this book and dip into the middle school crush zone, school dances, and more in a completely clean simple way. There’s no cursing, no declarations of true love, and no big adolescent attitude (perhaps because it’s mostly from boys’ POV, not girls).
CONTENT NOTE: I appreciated the lack of mature or undesirable content that is present in some novels aimed at the older middle grade reader, which often includes a disrespectful attitude or inappropriate romantic themes or cursing. This is a realistic age-appropriate look at 6th graders that won’t make a parent cringe.
As far as the “asking Yoda” plot, this might concern some from a spiritual standpoint, but in my opinion, it was treated as a game, and the Origami Yoda is not really given any real power. I think it’s along the lines of the Magic 8 Ball that any child of the 80’s played with, but didn’t really believe. However, it’s worth noting, because it could be of issue to some (although in my mind it’s worth noting to say that it’s presented in fun, not in an “ask the oracle” sort of way).
Amanda, 12, and I both enjoyed this book a great deal. It has a lesson, it made us laugh, and it’s told in a very interesting way.
And since I barely pushed past the “Oh just go read it” standard review when I am overwhelmed with enjoyment, it must go on my 5 Star Reads list.
Are there more fabulous books in reviewer Jennifer Donovan’s future? All signs point to “yes.” Follow her at Snapshot blog.