Okay, first things first: this series literally, literally, features my favorite book covers ever, of all time, no questions. Behold:

And what’s inside is just as good. Now, I’ll admit it – I’m probably going to love anything that references Star Wars so heavily. But you absolutely do not have to be a Lucas fangirl/boy to appreciate Tom Angleberger’s series about the “weird” kid in school who wears a surprisingly smart origami puppet on his finger.

In this funny portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel. (IndieBound)

The Kid Appeal

The majority of the story is written by Tommy, an all-around nice kid who’s trying to figure out what the deal is with Dwight and Origami Yoda. He collects stories from his classmates, including Sara (his crush) and Harvey (who adamantly insists that Origami Yoda is a total fake). And that maybe the biggest thing about this series that the twelve year old in me adores – the formatting. Rather than a traditional narrative, the book is presented as a case file; a collection of testimonials with “handwritten” illustrations and notes scrawled in the margins.

The Adult Appeal

It’s apparent to any adult that there is something special about Dwight. When Amanda started putting together our KLN Book Club Packet, she came across this interview of Tom Angleberger on E. Kristin Anderson’s blog. This quote was an eye-opener for me:

If you really want to get into it, Dwight has Asperger’s, just like me. So does Harvey.
Each one has found a way of dealing with a world that they don‘t quite understand. Dwight’s way is very positive. Harvey’s is very negative. (Kind of like Yoda and Vader.) ~Tom Angleberger

Dwight has Asperger’s – okay, I wasn’t surprised. But Harvey? As soon as I read that, Harvey’s actions in the book – his irritation with Dwight and Origami Yoda – it all clicked. But holy moly, how completely brilliant of Angleberger to create a protagonist and an antagonist, each with a disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction, then show how the different ways they handle said disorder defines their personalities…not to mention forms the perceptions their peers have of them.

Origami Yoda never treads the preachy, oh-no-this-book-has-a-moral line. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it’s very heartwarming. But Angleberger does what the best authors do: he gives us real, flawed, lovable characters that readers will recognize – as themselves, as their friends, as their enemies, as the nerds and the cool kids and the weirdos they see every day – and they’ll learn something about all of them.

The Book Club Packet

You can find directions on making your own Origami Yoda (and Darth Paper and Fortune Wookie) on the Origami Yoda website. For even more fun, check out our free book club packet! It comes with a “What is Asperger’s?” sheet, a fun “Yoda Speak” activity, and head-scratchin’ discussion questions.