When you were in sixth grade - think back - did you have questions? Were there conundrums? Navigational issues? Did gym class make you cry? Was there a kid who wouldn't quit buggin' you? What about that embarrassing nickname you couldn't seem to shake?
And who can you go to for advice? Mom and Dad are nice, but a little out of touch; and teachers - well when the teachers aren't busy enforcing all those those weird arbitrary rules (can you really get detention for eating chalk?) they're spouting aphorisms that either everyone already knows or nobody can understand.
Sixth graders need Yoda. Wise, cryptic, all-knowing Yoda.
So when Tommy's weird friend Dwight shows up at school with an origami finger puppet that looks something like Yoda, and suggests that Tommy and his friends check in with Origami Yoda when they have tough decisions or difficult situations to deal with, and furthermore, when Origami Yoda's advice is so good as to suggest that it could not possibly have come from oddball Dwight, Tommy decides to investigate.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is Tommy's casebook. He documents his own interactions with Origami Yoda and asks his friends to contribute theirs as well. This works really well on audio - a cast of five actors impersonate Tommy, Kellen, Quavondo, Sara, and resident skeptic Harvey with varying degrees of believable immaturity. Hearing the way each actor interprets each kid's Yoda imitation is particularly entertaining. The four boys I ferried to and from a field trip on Tuesday hung on every word, bemoaning Harvey's snide comments and trying to guess the impact of Yoda's cryptic utterings.
The printed edition of this book has kidlike doodles and a crumpled-page background graphic, but I don't think the audio edition suffers without those things. One of the things I like best about the book is that the "Strange Case" is never resolved - the reader is left to decide for him- or herself whether Origami Yoda is merely Dwight's dummy or whether somehow Dwight's finger puppet is actually imbued with the Force. This open ending is perfect for a group read, or for a family or classroom listen.
My only question now is which grade to give this audio book to now that I've finished with it? Sixth grade, to match the protagonists? Or third grade, because that class just loves humor? Dang. Where's Origami Yoda when I need him?