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Top 100 Children’s Novels #87: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

#87 The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (2010)
22 points

On the one hand, it’s a gimmick. On the other hand, it’s a hilarious gimmick that gets middle school boys and their insecurities down pat. That said, it’s accessible and well-written. You can’t get much better than that. – Melissa Fox

At last!  The appearance of a book that has come out recently enough that I had a chance to review it myself!

Here’s the plot description from my own review: “Tommy comes right out with his dilemma on page one. ‘The big question: Is Origami Yoda real? . . . It’s REALLY important for me to figure out if he’s real. Because I’ve got to decide whether to take his advice or not, and if I make the wrong choice, I’m doomed!’ It’s strange to think that Tommy would be this torn up over an origami finger puppet belonging to the school’s biggest dork. But then he starts recounting for us the wonders of Origami Yoda’s advice. It may not always be spot on, but it’s certainly heads and tales more intelligent than Dwight, the boy who created the puppet and who voices him (poorly). Example: How do you get out of a potentially embarrassing situation when you’re in the bathroom and you spill water on your pants so that it looks like you peed yourself? Origami Yoda says: ‘All of pants, you must wet.’ See? Strangely good advice. Of course, then Tommy starts asking Origami about Sara, the girl he likes, and the answer he receives leaves him conflicted. Believe the talking folded paper or consider it a hoax and play it safe? The book is filled with little drawings and sidenotes as different classmates weigh in on the Origami Yoda conundrum.”

Here we have yet another Abrams surprise hit.  Angleberger had been writing middle grade novels for years prior to Yoda‘s success but it was always under his pseudonym Sam Riddleberger.  With Yoda he was able to break out of his confining nom de plume and take advantage of the near universal love of Star Wars we all share (the real Star Wars, not The Clone Wars or the faux prequels, thank you very much).  Thanks in part to its brilliant cover, in part to its post-Wimpy Kid era interiors, and the fact that Angleberger knows how to put pen to paper, the book has been popular ever since.  There was the sequel starring Darth Paper and another that will be out this fall (I believe) involving a Wookie-related cootie catcher.  And yes.  Mr. Angleberger does one helluva good wookie call when asked.

For extras, I’m just including my review’s previous links wholesale!

Other Blog Reviews:

Professional Reviews:

Interviews: Madelyn Rosenberg interviews Tom on all sorts of things.


  • Be sure you head on over to Mishaps and Adventures where skilled Art Director Chad Beckerman shows the evolution of the current cover.  For that matter, read the comment section where Tom explains what his original idea was instead.
  • For cool things like how to make both the simple and the complex Origami Yoda (and host of other pieces of awesomeness) go here.
  • Read a chapter sample.
  • Tom told the story behind the story when he contributed a guest post to Cynsations.  If you’re wondering how he managed to get a character like Yoda on the cover a children’s book in the first place, here’s where you can find out.
  • BoingBoing points out where Tom got the original idea for this book.


Here’s a step-by-step explanation behind how one goes about making an Origami Yoda (and this blog post talks about a kid putting it to good use):

And I have a special place in my heart for this little German video.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Pleased as Death Lord losing yet another hand to see this here.

    I’m just finishing a reading to my fifth graders of the Riddleburger masterpiece THE QUICKPICK ADVENTURE SOCIETY. Gag reflex aside, why wasn’t that book made into a series?

    Angleberbeger/Riddleburger brings to the oh so popular mixed-media-comedic-novel an underlying dose of genuine compassion, which rises him above the level of wimpy laughs.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      So glad you loved Qwikpick too! Consider it the lost Angleberger classic. It will rise again! I swear it!

  2. You had me at “wookie-related cootie catcher.”

  3. I will be happy to head the Qwikpick resurgence, although I will need to get the spelling right.

  4. Genevieve says

    I wanted to read Quikpick to my son when it first came out, but our library didn’t have it back then. Still don’t – I bet they would if it had his real name on it.

  5. I’m surprised but ridiculously happy to see this here.

  6. I agree with you, DaNae. This book does have an underlying compassion that makes me like it better than Wimpy Kid.