Wednesday 14 December 2011

Review: Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger (an Origami Yoda books)

It is a dark time at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School. After suffering several Origami Yoda–related humiliations, Harvey manages to get Dwight suspended from school for being a “troublemaker.” Origami Yoda pleads with Tommy and Kellen to save Dwight by making a new case file—one that will show how Dwight’s presence benefits McQuarrie. With the help of their friends, Tommy and Kellen record cases such as “Origami Yoda and the Pre-eaten Wiener,” “Origami Yoda and the Exploding Pizza Bagels,” and “Origami Yoda and the Body Odor in Wonderland.” But Harvey and his Darth Paper puppet have a secret plan that could make Dwight’s suspension permanent . . .

Star Wars is in my top five all time favourite films (more specifically, Star Wars: A New Hope, but when I first watched in back in 1978 it was only known as Star Wars). When I was a kid I had quite a few Star Wars figures, I read the books, and I watched the original trilogy on VHS over and over again. So when a book called Darth Paper Strikes Back popped through my letter box I could not help but be intrigued. A quick read of the press release informed me that it was the sequel to a book called The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, a book that I was not even aware existed. However, I started to skim read the first few pages to get a feel for the book, and I was instantly hooked.

To set the scene, here is the blurb from the first book, Origami Yoda: "Tommy and his classmates narrate this middle grade mystery, each recounting an episode in which they received wise advice from a finger puppet of Yoda, perpetually worn on the finger of their classmate, Dwight, a loser who can't get anything right. Is this puppet really Yoda? Or is Dwight a bit more together than he seems?"

From what I can work out, Dwight turned from zero to hero in the eyes of his classmates thanks to his amazing finger puppet. However, Dwight's nemesis, Harvey, has decided that he wants all of the attention and kicks off the new school year by introducing Darth Paper to his peers. Darth Paper is the complete opposite to Origami Yoda - mean, nasty, and on a mission to discredit Dwight and possibly even get him kicked out of school. If this sounds a little bizarre to you then I would ahve to agree with you on the face of it, but the story is not as strange as it sounds. It is laugh out loud funny and very, very clever.

This is the perfect book for boys (or girls) who love Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid books, but have read them so many times that they are beginning to fall apart. By all means go out and buy your kids new copies, but why not slip this one in as well - I am pretty sure they will love it. Especially if they are a Star Wars fan. Until recently I hadn't realised just how popular the Star Wars franchise was with today's 7-10 year olds, but friends have assured me that their sons can't get enough of it, thanks in part to the recent animated series, as well as games like Lego Star Wars. If they are big fans then can't lose with this book - like Wimpy Kid it is full of small doodle-like illustrations, it is narrated in the first person by a host of great kid voices, and if you're still not convinced - it also has instructions on how to make your own origami Darth Paper!

I guess I should just add one small word of warning - this story is set in an American school and as such all the terminology, etc is very American. This did not affect my enjoyment of the story, and I am not sure how many young readers will find it a distraction either, but I thought you had better be aware.

My thanks go to the nice people at Amulet for sending me a copy to review. Much as I hate to part with my books this one is too good not to give away and will be heading in the direction of my godson's 7 year old brother as an extra Christmas present.

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