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The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
An Interview Star Wars Author Tom Angleberger

By Kat
Staff Writer

July 18, 2010

Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger
Buy it Now on

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, published by Amulet Books

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, a young adult novel by Tom Angelberger, hit bookshelves in March 2010 and quickly garnered rave reviews from critics and readers alike. A Roanoke Times columnist, Angelberger's passion for writing and Star Wars collided with the creation of his Lucasfilm approved Origami Yoda book.

The story is centered around sixth grader Dwight, deemed a "total loser" by his peers, and his suprisingly wise Origami Yoda finger puppet. But does Origami Yoda really know things or is he just a big hoax? Fellow sixth grader, Tommy, starts talking to classmates and assembling a case file to find out.

Tom Angelberger talks Star Wars, Yoda, origami and middle school in today's interview.

How did you become a Star Wars fan?

I saw the movie for the first time when it came out in 1977. I was 6 and didn't understand it all. But I saw it some more, played with the action figures and got the amazing Roscoe Lee Brown-narrated audio version...which I memorized. Remember, this was before VHS, so that cassette tape was the closest thing to watching the movie again.

How did you get the idea to write a book about origami Yoda?
I saw a picture on the Boing Boing blog of Fukiami Kawahata's incredible Yoda. But I knew it was too hard for me to fold. I'm really not that good at origami. So I dabbled around and made a very simple one, which turned out to work as a finger puppet. From there the idea of a kid taking the puppet to school just evolved.

Did your story always include an origami Yoda or did you ever consider using any other kind of finger puppet or prop?
Yoda was the inspiration for the book and was the focus as I wrote it. But later, when we thought Lucasfilm might not let us use Yoda we did consider using a non-Star Wars puppet. Thank the maker, Lucasfilm was 100% fantastic and gave us permission.

What was your angle when you pitched your book idea to the publisher?
I remember asking my agent to tell the publisher that the book was about wanting to believe in something.

BOOK EXCERPT The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

It's REALLY important for me to figure out if he's real or not. Because I've got to decide whether to take his advice or not and if I make the wrong choice I'm doomed! I don't want to get into all that now, so for now let's just say it's about a girl and whether or not I should risk making a fool of myself for her.

Origami Yoda says to do it, but if he's wrong … total humiliation.

How did you decide to structure the book in a case file format?
Originally, the book was just going to be short stories about Origami Yoda. But then the story arc came along and that sort of required one character to be pulling all the separate stories together. My editor really crystalized the idea of a case file.

What kind of research did you do before writing the book?
Well, I went to middle school for three years. Three LONG painful years.

You are a columnist for the Roanoke Times in Virginia. How did the process of writing The Strange Case of Origami Yoda differ from writing for the newspaper?

When you write for a newspaper you can't make stuff up. That sounds obvious, but it can really be hard to tell a story when you don't know basic stuff. "See Jimmy run." Do you know for a fact that he ran? Maybe it he just walked fast. etc... It's a big pain. So much more fun to just make up whatever you want.

Who folded the Origami Yoda on the cover of the book?
I did that one, too. And I didn't write down how to do it. I've never been able to fold another one just like it. Eventually, I came up with a different method which makes a Yoda that looks similar. (The instructions for that are on my website, too.)

How did you come up with the simple Origami Yoda design?
Just fiddling around and then lots and lots of refining to make it easier to fold.

Pile of 1000 Origami Yodas by Tom Angleberger
Photo Credit: Tom Angleberger
Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
What's the story behind the 1000 Origami Yodas that you folded to promote the book? How long did that take and where did all of those origami Yodas go?
I folded the 1000 Yodas for my publisher to give away to librarians, booksellers and book reviewers. I had no idea what I was getting into. It took about a month. After about 300 I came up with a better way to finish it off and tuck extra flaps out of the way. So I went back and redid the 300 and then did 700 more. Since then I've come up with the easy 5-fold Yoda which would have saved me weeks of folding!

What kind of response has the book gotten from parents and kids?
It's been great! I love meeting kids who love Star Wars, origami or both! Getting to be part of Star Wars--even a teeny tiny part --is a dream come true!

Pile of 1000 Origami Yodas by Tom Angleberger
Photo Credit: Tom Angleberger
Angleberger folded 1000 Origami Yodas to promote the book
Will you be writing a sequel?
"Always in motion the future is..."

What's your favorite Star Wars character and why?
Yoda. He's pretty important to me. People might be surprised to hear this but I do not like Yoda jokes, parodies, etc... I have a deep respect for Yoda and his message of turning away from anger and hate.

SWBookZone recently interviewed Chris Alexander, a Star Wars origami artist that you link to on your website. Have you met him?
I haven't met Chris yet, but I'm hoping he'll be at Celebration [V]. I think his origami Millennium Falcon is absolutely incredible. I have one on my desk and look at it in amazement from time to time.

What's next for you?
A trip to Star Wars Celebration V to teach people how to fold Origami Yoda, Vader and Ackbar!

A big thanks to Tom Angleberger for taking the time to share his story with For more information about Tom and The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, visit Tom's website at

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