Darth Paper Strikes Back (Origami Yoda #2)Featured
When Harvey creates his own origami creature named Darth Paper, he uses the powers of the dark side to get Dwight expelled from McQuarrie Middle School. Tommy and his friends create a second case file, this time to prove to the school board that Dwight should not be sent to the Correctional and Remediation Education Facility. Following the same format as the original book, DARTH PAPER explores the shifts in friendships which are very common in middle school. In the first book, Harvey is deeply entrenched as a member of the group, while Dwight is the strange outcast that they use for advice. By the time seventh grade begins, however, everyone is tired of Harvey's attitude and appreciate Dwight for the good person he is. It is when Harvey feels his popularity slipping that he takes drastic action. I witness the chess game that is adolescent friendship every day and author Tom Angleberger nailed it.
In fact, so much of these novels is spot-on that I tried to find out if Angleberger was ever a teacher. Results are inconclusive, but I think he must be a former teacher or married to one. The importance of the Standards of Learning tests is emphasized by everyone, even the seventh graders when they think it will skew in their favor. In an important moment, Tommy is momentarily distracted by a completed Rubik's cube, which is classic middle school attention span. And as much as he is the antagonist, Harvey's sarcastic comments crack me up more than anyone else.
At the heart of the book is a message about appreciating differences and championing the underdog. I love that DARTH PAPER manages to do this without being saccharine or condescending. The third book in the series will be published on May 15th, and I will be at the bookstore that day, eager to see which paper creature will be the next to win my affection.
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That’s the message that Tom Angleber explores in “Darth Paper Strikes Back,” the second book of his Origami Yoda series. Through the adventures of Tommy, Dwight, Harvey and the gang, Angleberger shows that just because someone or something isn’t normal, it doesn’t mean it, he, or she should be feared or censored. Take Dwight for example. He goes around school giving advice through a paper Yoda puppet, and a lot of people think that’s just whack. One person in particular, the principal at McQuarrie Middle School, thinks Dwight’s abnormalness is a disruption to a properly functioning learning environment.
What “Darth Paper Strikes Back” shows young readers, however, is it’s exactly Dwight’s strange ways that contribute to learning. Dwight on his own is a bit lacking in social grace and doesn’t quite understand how to interact with others in a “normal” way. What makes Dwight a stand up guy is that he works his hardest to find a way that he is comfortable interacting with people, and sure, it’s through an origami space elf, but those interactions result in important lessons for his friends that they eventually rely on. So in the end, who cares if Dwight isn’t all that normal? Not only is he not hurting anyone, he’s enriching the lives of those around him. Maybe abnormal is becoming the new normal.
Brings up important notions of what is normalcy and when it's okay to just be yourself.