The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee is the third book in the Origami Yoda series. After the events of Darth Paper Strikes Back, Dwight is attending another school that seems to be very supportive of differences. Tommy and the other kids at McQuarrie Middle School struggle without advice from Origami Yoda and begin to fear that something is wrong with Dwight because he’s acting so very normal—he’s retired Origami Yoda and stopped making origami all together.
Then Sara brings in the Fortune Wookiee—a paper fortune-teller in the form of Chewbacca (there is, of course, a sheet to tear out to make your own Fortune Wookiee, at least in the hard cover version we have)—which she says is a gift from Dwight, who’s her neighbor. The fortunes are all Wookiee-like sounds that have to be translated by Han Foldo—an origami Han Solo finger puppet. In Sara’s hands, though, the Fortune Wookiee gives advice that’s almost as good as Origami Yoda’s. Did Dwight pass on his wisdom through the paper, or is something else going on here? And what’s wrong with Dwight that’s making him not be so wonderfully weird?
One thing I really appreciate about the series is that it’s about kids I can identify with. They aren’t the popular kids, and they’re ok with that. Most of the time, they fly under the radar of the popular kids—there isn’t a ton of tension around moving up in social circles or setting up the popular kids as villains, and when the popular kids do feature, it’s in a “Oh, right, you guys exist” kind of way. This portrayal feels a good bit more like how I remember middle school than many TV shows, movies, and books.
I continue to be impressed by the heavy middle school issues that are handled in these books while never detracting from the humor. Now that I’ve read all three Origami Yoda books, I may have to branch out into other books by Tom Angleberger.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Although being labeled “weird” is typically an insult, and certainly not something most parents wish on their children, by this book in the series it’s very much a compliment among the kids at McQuarrie. It’s better to be weird than boring. It’s better to be weird than “special.” Dwight’s mom thinks it’s a good sign that he’s put away Origami Yoda and he’s acting more normal, but it’s actually a sign that he’s unhappy in his new school that appears to accept him so well. Even Harvey admits that Dwight is now acting way too normal.
In Dwight’s new school, everyone made Origami Yodas to make him feel welcome—however, it had the opposite effect. When everyone else takes on your quirks, what’s the point of having them? It’s also very clear that celebrating differences can have absolutely nothing to do with understanding those differences. The students in the new school talk about how funny and cute Dwight is, but what they seem to value is the opportunity to show how open minded they are by accepting this weirdo. At one point this relationship is compared to Dwight being like a class pet, not a classmate at all. On the surface this school is accepting, but in reality they are making no effort to understand Dwight.
Lance is terrified that the other kids will find out he takes tap and ballet—in fact, it comes to light when someone jokes about it, assuming there’s no way that could be his secret. On the advice of the Fortune Wookiee, he overcomes this by being proud of it. When Harvey tries to tease him about it, he says, “What you won’t believe is how good I am” and then he does a loud demonstration in the library, which of course gets him in trouble with the librarian. However, once he comes back out, most kids have forgotten about it—except for Amy, the girl he has a crush on, who asks him to join the drama club because none of the boys in it can dance.
Harvey is still a jerk, but now he seems to have moved from malicious to selfish and self-centered. It’s only a mild improvement, but at least there seems to be some hope that he’s coming out of his truly jerky phase.
Teachers & Other Adults
For the most part, the adults still don’t get it. This is most obvious in Dwight’s mom who is well intentioned but just doesn’t get her son. She’s convinced life will be better for him if he just starts acting more like other kids.
The librarian stands up to the principal. When the principal bans origami from the school, the librarian says that she isn’t banning educational experiences in the library. At that point, Tommy realizes that there are a lot more books about origami and Star Wars in the library now, and that the librarian has been paying attention to the things that matter to the kids when she buys new books.
Grammar & Punctuation
The chapters are written by different kids and one writer in particular isn’t into capital letters or apostrophes, making up for it with an abundance of exclamation points. This is humorously called out in the notes Harvey writes. As an editor and former grammar & writing teacher, I found this amusing.
Many of the girls are just as versed in Star Wars trivia as the boys are. Sometimes the boys try to tout their superior wisdom, but the girls know as much as they do. In the end, it turns out that the Fortune Wookiee didn’t come from Dwight—it was part of Sara’s elaborate plan to help a friend escape an unwelcome crush. She says his wisdom isn’t the Force, but Girl Power.
Somewhat stereotypically, the girls put several somewhat devious and elaborate plans into action to redirect Kellen’s romantic attention away from Rhondella, who didn’t want it, and toward Remi, who did. While Tommy feels pretty strange when he figures this out, he has to admit that things worked out pretty well in the end.
Crushes still run rampant, and in this book sometimes the streams get crossed. For the most part, the boys and girls are still friends with each other, even as they struggle to figure out emerging emotions. At the end, we learn that a lot of the plot was driven by an unwelcome crush, but it’s only in retrospect that this all comes to light. All of the romance is very middle school, hands off and innocent.
Dwight’s mom struggles to raise him alone, figuring out what’s best for this odd son of hers. His dad is totally out of the picture. She frequently doesn’t make great choices and has trouble appreciating her son’s quirks, but she’s always portrayed sympathetically. To be true to himself, though, Dwight has to learn that it’s ok not to do what makes her most happy.
Tommy has some sibling rivalry issues with his older brother who’s on swim team, but this is only mentioned in passing.
This is one of the first books my son has bought the week it came out—he was anxious for this sequel to be published so we headed out to the bookstore as soon as it came out. He’d read it by the next day. I don’t think there are higher recommendations than that!
This is great for reluctant readers. A lot of the issues are very middle school, so I’d recommend it for readers who can identify with situations like that. Although the primary points of view are male, I think many girls would enjoy it as well.
The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger
Published in 2012 by Amulet Books
Third in the Origami Yoda series
Read my son’s hardcover with the exclusive Chewbacca fortune-teller included