Darth Paper Strikes Back is the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Dwight, the origami artist who hangs out with Origami Yoda, has been suspended from school and may be transferred to an alternative school for violent kids. Tommy, Kellen, and the other kids join forces to try to convince the school board that Dwight isn’t a threat to the school—in fact, Origami Yoda brings peace and solves problems.
Harvey, the primary antagonist from the first book, is back with a vengeance. He’s created Darth Paper—another origami Star Wars character—who is out to get Dwight. In fact, Harvey is the one who reported Dwight to the principal, leading to the disciplinary hearing. The rest of the students have just about had it with Harvey. He’s routinely dismissed as a jerk, although the kids aren’t quite sure how to avoid him.
Like the original, the point of view switches as Tommy collects stories to create a casefile to present to the school board. There are sketches throughout and the pages are visually textured.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
It’s only there on a middle school level, but girlfriends are kind of important. The boys aren’t sure how to handle themselves—on the other hand, neither are the girls. The crushes drive some of the action, but they’re mostly background. Regardless of developing feelings, the boys and girls are still, for the most part, friends.
Body Issues & Poverty
One chapter is about a girl in the drama club who has body odor. The other students are totally grossed out by it, but they don’t know how to talk to her about it. The grumbling is starting to get so loud that some of the main characters are worrying that the girl will start to hear the cruel comments being thrown around not far behind her back.
Origami Yoda figures out that the girl herself is clean, but her clothes desperately need to be washed and her family doesn’t have access to a washer. The main characters are kind of shocked to realize what kinds of complicated issues can be behind things. Origami Yoda suggests that they start dress rehearsals so that the girl won’t be in her dirty clothes around the other drama kids. They do that, and it solves the problem without ever bringing it up directly with the girl.
The principal is probably well-meaning, but she really doesn’t know what to do with Dwight. When given an excuse, she takes steps to get him out of her school. Her explicit concern is about the “Standards of Learning” test, not what’s best for the kids. She explains that high test scores are what’s best for the school and therefore the kids, but that reasoning falls flat. (I did notice that the acronym of Standards of Learning is SOL which my dad taught me means “Sh!t outta luck” which seems amazing appropriate.) The school board sides with the principal even when there’s evidence that Dwight isn’t a threat to other students.
The teachers overall seem frustrated and not quite capable of helping the kids. The drama teacher suggests they all just accept the girl with the body odor, not realizing how the situation is boiling.
Dwight’s mom is trying SO hard to do what’s right for her son, but she’s going about it all wrong—she’s trying to change him rather than accepting him, but it felt like she was desperate and had no idea how to help him. When she hears the casefile of all the ways that Dwight and Origami Yoda have helped the kids in the school, she’s moved to tears. She stands up to the school board, telling them off for not understanding her son. She transfers him to a private school rather than letting him stay in the school district.
Things Don’t Always Turn Out
The kids tried so hard to show that Dwight added a lot to their middle school and that they would miss him. In the end, he transfers to a private school because the school board still voted to send him to the school for violent offenders. They did get through to Dwight’s mom, but the other adults didn’t hear them at all.
Creative Problem Solving
Sure, it’s supposedly Origami Yoda who solves the problems, but usually by telling the kids something cryptic so they have to figure things out for themselves. I enjoyed seeing how the kids figured out ways to solve their problems.
Harvey is really nasty in this book, and pretty much all of the kids are nasty right back to him. In the end, though, he does the right thing, even if he does it in the most arrogant way possible. He’s not a nice kid, but he’s also not just a force of evil.
The kids seem more comfortable in themselves and with each other overall, but the politics of middle school haven’t gone away. It’s still a rough and competitive place to be.
It’s probably best to read The Strange Case of Origami Yoda first to get a feel for the characters and the situation. Content-wise, the series is probably best for ages 9 and up. The story and characters are surprisingly complex, so I think this is an excellent choice for reluctant readers. There are directions for making Emergency Origami Yoda and Darth Paper (we have them ALL. OVER. THE. HOUSE. My son loves these books).
Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger
Published in 2011 by Abrams
Sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. A third book, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, was recently published.
Read my son’s copy