The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

I was surprised by how much I liked The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. The premise is that Tommy, a 6th grade boy, is collecting stories to determine whether Origami Yoda (a folded paper finger puppet designed by Dwight) actually has the power to see into the future and impart wisdom. Visually, the book stands apart—the pages look like pieces of crumpled printer paper and the chapters are written in various fonts, depending on who is sharing the current story. There are doodles throughout the margins, made by Kellan. Harvey and Tommy handwrite comments at the end of each story.

The story itself, however, explores the stereotypes and divisions that run rampant in middle school. Tommy’s struggle to understand Origami Yoda is also his struggle to come to terms with himself and who his true friends are. I don’t know that my 9 year old son is picking up on all of this, but seeing as he’s read the book several times, I think it’s inevitable that some of the lessons will sink in.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Dwight manages to get himself beaten up, and he’s even the one who gets in trouble for it. Admittedly, he started it, but he also very much got the short end of the stick in the fight. In the end, though, his motives for fighting (the honor of a girl he likes) turn out to be good.


The kids are pretty awful to each other, even when they profess to be friends. The politics of the middle school are laid pretty bare, and it feels like something I would have been able to identify with back in the day. In the end, Harvey—arguably the cruelest of any of the characters—is ostracized as he probably ought to be.

The kids in the story are mostly the “losers”—they’re obviously not the most popular kids (who barely even feature in this story, in much the same way that these kids are probably barely a blip on the popular kids’ radar), but they learn to come to terms with the group of friends they’re becoming. Dwight is often called “weird” and many of his behaviors back that up, although admittedly we only hear about them from his classmates who may be exaggerating. But they continue to hang out with him and eventually even come to value him. He has subtle ways of getting back at those who are mean to him.

Boy Appeal

My boy feels like this book was written for him, and I can see why. He loves origami and Star Wars and I think he could identify with these kids on several levels. It’s amusingly random. Visually the book appeals—there’s a lot going on and it avoids the “wall of text” problem. The fact that the pages are a little darker might also make it more visually appealing—it’s not starkly intimidating. I’m not saying girls wouldn’t enjoy it (my daughter really likes it), but it does seem to very much target my 4th grade boy. He made origami Yoda Valentines for his class and he did his first ever book report on this.


Due to some of the themes—an interest in girls, some of the social issues—it’s probably best for ages 9 and up, even though it’s written at a reading level that a younger reader could probably handle. I think this is a good book for reluctant readers. There’s enough depth and character development to get you involved in the story, but the episodic approach keeps it moving quickly. The sketches and notes add layers to the story as well—it’s not all buried in text.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Published in 2010 by Abrams
Has several sequels, including  Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee
Read my son’s copy

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