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Literature / Origami Yoda

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Origami Yoda is a series of books by author Tom Angleberger based around the Star Wars franchise.

It follows a child named Dwight Tharp, a social outcast at McQuarrie Middle School, who one day makes a Yoda finger puppet named "Origami Yoda". Dwight uses Origami Yoda to give sound advice to help the other students. This leads another student named Tommy to create a "case file" to investigate whether Origami Yoda is actually real and channeling the Force to give advice, or if he's just a hoax perpetrated by Dwight Tharp.

The first book within the series is The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. It was followed by a sequel a year later titled Darth Paper Strikes Back, which sees another student named Harvey creating an evil finger puppet of Darth Vader to counter Dwight and Origami Yoda. Those books would be followed by Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, Princess Lablemaker to the Rescue!, and Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (all in chronological order). The usage of the scenarios and characters of the Star Wars franchise within the novels was officially granted by LucasFilm.

Provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Jabba The Puppett, the Title Character of the fourth book, only shows up at the very end and for a brief scene. Though he does, in a way, play an important role by showing the parents at Rabbski's meeting how obnoxious Fun Time is.
  • Alliterative Name: Kellen Campbell.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Murky, due to how ridiculously happy he is all the time and that he always wears pink shirts.
    • It gets discussed at one point when Murky ends up getting bullied, with the bullies assuming he's gay for these reasons. Tater Tot confesses to wondering about it himself, but he also says that he's the one who told off the bullies in the first place.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Murky considers his younger sister Karina to be this. Karina enjoys snitching on her older brother.
  • Antagonist Title: "Darth Paper" and "Emperor Pickletine" are both named after the puppets used by Harvey.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the final book, Tommy is upset that the field trip has a No Origami Rule. He writes, "Wug!", "NOOOOOOOO!", "I have a bad feeling about this!", "SAD WHISTLE!", and "I like nuts!".
  • Berserk Button: Do not say that home economics is just for girls when Rhondella's in earshot.
  • Berserker Tears: Mike has a tendency to do this. He calls them "mad tears" and says they're different from "boo hoo tears".
  • Big Eater: Quavondo loves to stuff his face at the cafeteria.
  • Brand X: The FunTime brand, which tends to show up on the products used by the middle school from book 3 onward.
  • Buffy Speak: Murky takes this to a whole new level; his friends even call his way of speaking "Murkyisms".
  • The Bully:
    • Harvey is a more psychological one. He's not physically abusive, but takes every opportunity he can to insult or demean others and put them down, or just to
    • Zack Martin is a straighter example who actually does use his physical strength to bully people.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dwight is a quirky kid who has a hard time focusing in class or acting normal, but he is an excellent origami folder and someone who's good at planning and making logical deductions.
    • Origami Yoda could be seen as this as well, if he is a legitimately separate being from Dwight. He's a finger puppet of a Star Wars character and Dwight doesn't even give him an accurate sounding Yoda voice, but the advice he gives is always sound. Rather appropriate, given his inspiration.
  • Butt-Monkey: Kellen. Let's review: Gets in trouble through somebody else's fault? Check. Gets his pants wet from the sink? Check. Lost his girlfriend? Check.
  • Canon Foreigner: Remi makes a Mara Jade origami figure; while the character did appear in the ROTJ radio drama she has yet to appear in a movie, and with the old Expanded Universe being thrown out it's unlikely she ever will.
  • The Case of...: The first novel uses this naming pattern.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Dwight has "Purple."
    • Murky has "Stooky!"
    • One of the squirrels Kellen draws has "I like nuts!"
  • Cliffhanger: The end of the 3rd book. Sara reveals that the Fortune Wookiee that Dwight made was really made by her, and the terrible FunTime program is set to be instated at the beginning of January instead of the electives, so Tommy has no idea what to do.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Parasite Within: Legend of the Vampyre. Originally it wasn't that important, and it began the running gag of the two-page chapters, but in the fifth book Lance uses it to find out about Tevon Riley, the actor who portrays Professor Funtime.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Dwight. He lies down in weird places, and once banged on a locker, screaming for the squirrels to save him.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: Dwight with Origami Yoda. He uses Origami Yoda to give people advice.
  • Cool Loser: Dwight to the other kids. He's an outcast, but his friends admire him.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: In the 2nd book, Kellen writes about an annoying little kid who constantly mocks his skateboarding abilities. Tommy comments, "[The little kid] reminds me of someone. Let's see... a kid who just stands around and complains and insults people all the time? I just can't think who that reminds me of... (cough) Harvey (cough)."
  • Cuddle Bug: The girls at Tippett Academy love to hug Dwight.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Harvey could be seen as a micro-example of this. He is legitimately smart in a lot of subjects and also a very good origami folder from what we see, but at the same time is such an unpleasant Jerkass that even people who recognize his skills, like Tommy, don't want to give him any credit.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harvey. Almost every other word out of his mouth is a snark or a jab.
  • Downer Ending: The end of the 3rd book. The Fortune Wookiee is revealed as a fake made by Sara, and the terrible FunTime program is already set to be instated by Rabbski at the beginning of January.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • Edu-Fun Products, who serve as the effective Big Bad for books 3 through 5, first make their appearance in Darth Paper as the ones providing the products to sell for the school fundraiser.
    • Remi and Ben also appear in Darth Paper as two of the people who signed the letter petitioning Rabbski to unsuspend Dwight, before becoming fairly important characters in later books.
  • Enemy Mine: At the end of The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, it's revealed that Mr. Howell, one of the strictest and most hated teachers in the school, hates Fun-Time as much as the kids do and actually helps sabotage a parent-teacher meeting in an effort to stop it.
  • Evil Counterpart: Harvey makes Darth Paper as one to Origami Yoda. Origami Yoda gives people helpful advice. Darth Paper just sneers and insults people.
  • Evil Is Petty: While it would be a bit of a stretch to call him totally "evil", in the second book Harvey tries to get Dwight sent to CREF just because he made a fool out of him in the first book.
  • Evil Knockoff: In the first book, Harvey eventually makes his own Origami Yoda, who he uses to jeer at and insult others instead of give them advice.
  • Evil Overlord: Principal Rabbski is imagined as one by Tommy and his friends, who compare her to Emperor Palpatine and refer to her as "Empress Rabbski".
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The first book details events that occur over the entire course of the kids' sixth-grade year. All five books that come after that each cover a similar number of events taking place within one or a few months, and the end of the last book is the end of seventh grade. Apparently, it was a really eventful year.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Surprisingly Harvey during the 3rd book after reading about his good actions at the end of the 2nd book.
  • Fan Disservice: In the 5th book, Kellen draws Harvey wearing a golden bikini after Harvey makes fun of his drawings. He also draws Jabba the Hutt being disgusted by it.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Harvey by the 2nd book. Kellen even asks Tommy why they let him sit at their lunch table, to which Tommy says he doesn't know and that Harvey just keeps coming.
  • The Fundamentalist: Mike's mother is a devout Christian who's strict on attending church, believes prayer should be allowed in schools, and even takes away Mike's Star Wars stuff after she finds out about Origami Yoda.
  • Gonk: Mr. Howell. He has creepy eyes and fishy lips.
  • Grin of Rage: In "Rise of the Fortune Wookiee", Principal Rabbski is in a state of Tranquil Fury when Harvey, Tommy and Kellen go to her office. There are illustrations of Mr. Good Clean Fun and Soapy the Monkey scowling with the caption "mad" under them both, and this is followed by a drawing of Rabbski smiling, but with a Death Glare, and it's topped with the caption "mega mad".
  • Guilt by Association Gag: In the third book, Tommy, Kellen and Harvey are sent to Rabbski's office. Tommy is in trouble for blowing his nose on Harvey's origami, Harvey is in trouble for making the origami in the first place, and Kellen is in trouble for laughing at it, even though he didn't do anything other than that.
  • Happy Ending Override: The second book ends on a happy note, with Dwight being sent to Tippet Academy (where his crush Caroline is) instead of CREF, and being in a position where Tommy and the others can still ask him for advice (via email). By the third book however, Dwight's been pressured into not being eccentric by Tippett, unable to see Caroline much due to how much the grades at Tippett are apart, and giving up Origami Yoda.
  • Hated by All: Harvey has little, if any, people who like him at McQuarrie on account of his Jerkass tendencies and sneering mockery towards anyone other than himself. In most chapters he appears in (not written by himself), one of the other characters will mention how obnoxious they find him at least once.
  • Hates Being Touched: Dwight doesn't like to be hugged. Unfortunately for him, the girls at Tippett Academy are Cuddle Bugs.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Zig-zagged with Harvey. While he's played as a total jerk throughout all of the first book and most of the second book, by the end of the second book he shows himself to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. While he still has his Jerkass moments, he's never shown to be a complete one.
    • Professor FunTime is loud, obnoxious and does an awful job singing. His two Non Human Sidekicks, Gizmo and Wordsworth, are also described as being super annoying. Not even their voice actors like them.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Harvey. He has a Heel–Face Turn at the end of the 2nd book, but has a Face–Heel Turn in the 3rd book. After that, he escapes being a Jerkass, but is still a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Harvey goes back and forth throughout the series, but eventually reconciles with Tommy at the end of the sixth book.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens to Murky when the other sixth graders make him miss the school pictures by telling him that the pictures are taken in the class, not the cafeteria.
    • Rabbski joins the side of the kids and decides to veto Funtime in the 5th book.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Mike swore at his mom in "Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett", Soapy the monkey calls him out for it, despite swearing a lot himself. The same thing happens when Rabbski refers to "Greenhill Plantation" as "Craphole Plantation", Soapy says "I can't believe she said it either! That is really ***ing inappropriate!"
  • Insistent Terminology: When Sara brings the Fortune Wookiee, a cootie catcher version of Chewbacca, to school, Harvey's comment on the chapter is literally nothing but a remark on how it's a "salt cellar", not a "cootie catcher".
    • In the 4th book, Dwight insists that everyone call him "Captain Dwight" as leader of the Origami Rebellion.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Harvey is the only kid to figure out that the Fortune Wookie is a fake before Tommy reveals it to everyone in the case file, and he gives solid evidence towards that conclusion. He also ends up ripping it in half by accident when announcing this to the library.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Harvey. He's somewhat cynical, but he respects Dwight deep down, and has some good ideas.
  • Keet: Murky.
  • Kid Detective: Dwight when he's trying to figure something out without Origami Yoda's help. Dwight even speaks in a British accent when this happens.
  • La Résistance: In the fourth book, the kids form an "Origami Rebellion" to fight against FunTime and Rabbski.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Origami Rebel Alliance spend the entire fourth book thinking of Rabbski as The Emperor. At the end though, Origami Yoda professes that she's not the Empress but, like them, "a pawn in a great game" being pushed on by other forces.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never explained whether Origami Yoda is actually magic or not. Even the ending doesn't really clarify anything.
  • Mega-Corp: Edu-Fun Products has shades of this. They're primarily involved education services, but apparently have ventures in a number of other industries, including food service and floor wax.
Sara: Does Edu-Fun sell everything?
  • Modern Major General: Dwight is an excellent origami folder, well versed in subjects he cares about and can be very insightful. He also doesn't have much interest in subjects he doesn't care about and would rather do his own thing most of the time, which naturally leads to him getting in trouble a lot.
  • No Indoor Voice: Mr. Howell constantly yells at the students.
  • Noodle Incident: In the 3rd book, Lance asks Sara and her Fortune Wookiee how to save himself from humiliation, because Jen had seen him taking dance lessons the night before. She asks him if Jen even knows who he is, and he says that she hasn't forgiven him due to an incident involving a pudding cup in the 5th grade.
    • Also from the third book, it's not explained how Murky got on the roof of the schoolnote . It's also mentioned that Lance and Ben don't believe him.
  • Old School Introductory Rap: In "The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett", a FunTime show suddenly shows up on the TV during a meeting. In that show, Gizmo starts rapping:
    Gizmo: My name is Gizmo and I'm here to say, I'll teach you to divide the easy way!
  • Once an Episode: Every book has Cassie going to Dwight and Origami Yoda for advice, and Dwight - in turn - putting on ridiculous fake Sherlock Holmes impression and doing an investigation.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: The kids associate Quavondo with being obsessed with cheetos after the incident at the zoo and give him the nickname "Cheeto Hog". The reason Quavondo goes to Origami Yoda in the first place is to seek advice for how to shed the nickname.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In the second book, Dwight briefly drops his usual eccentricities when he tells Cassie about Lisa's situation.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Mr. Howell is almost always shown with an angry expression on his face.
  • Prone to Tears:
    • Mike, who cries every time he gets mad.
    • Whenever Boba and Bossk are drawn together by Kellen, they cry over ridiculous things.
  • Pun: During Harvey's comment on fun stuff.
  • Punny Name: Some of the names of the origami creations, such as Darth Paper and Han Foldo.
    • Ki-Adi-Hungri's Food Court: Corn troopers. Anapkin Skywalkers. Vaderade. Crouton-taun. Obi-Wan Baloney. Salacious Gum. Salacious Crumbs. Cod Bane, Fry-Gon Jinn, and many more...
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Harvey gives Emperor Pickletine, his Emperor Palpatine puppet, red eyes.
  • Rival Final Boss: Harvey serves as The Rival to Dwight for the first two books before forming an Enemy Mine with him and the rest of the kids to oppose FunTime in the fourth and fifth books, only to go back to his Jerkass ways and become the main antagonist of the final book.
  • Running Gag: Alongside Brick Joke, the series loves this trope.
    • Boo-Hoo Tears and Mad Tears
    • The word "Purple"
    • "Stooky!"
    • Soapy the monkey's swearing.
    • Willy the Walking Waffle.
    • Dwight lying down in weird places.
    • Each book has at least one extremely short chapters. In the case of the last, it has three.
    • The squirrels. "I LIKE NUTS"
    • The "Clone Wars Strike Team" guys talking about education.
    • "That's CAPTAIN Dwight!"
    • "Yub Nub"
    • Bossk and Boba crying over small things.
  • Shoehorned Acronym: In "The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett", Professor FunTime from the similarly-named show FunTime says that he's going to help the students PREP (which stands for Preparation and RE-view Period) for their upcoming test.
    Kellen: Wouldn't that be 'PARP'?
    Mr. Howell: Please, Kellen, this is painful enough already.
  • Shout-Out: Unsurprisingly, the books are laden with references to their source material. As a whole they can be seen as not just a celebration of Star Wars but also the Star Wars fandom.
    • The "Tycho Brahe has a wax nose!" line in the first book note .
    • According to Quavondo's uncle, the Big Pink note  gets its name named from an album titled Music from Big Pink.
    • In the Guide to Folding and Doodling, Tommy demonstrates his (lack of) drawing ability with an old picture of a "Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch". He then remakes it into an equally-simplistic "Imperial Cruiser Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Cad Bane".
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot:
    • Soapy the monkey is drawn cursing any time he appears.
    • Quavondo's grandmother swears a lot as well.
  • Stealth Pun: "Fortune Wookiee" is a pun on "fortune cookie".
  • Tagalong Kid: Downplayed with Murky, who is a sixth-grander but hangs with the other main characters from the 2nd book onward even though they're all a grade above him.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • The squirrels Kellen draws throughout the books.
    • Kellen also likes to draw Boba Fett and Bossk this way.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Quavondo likes meat.
    • Dwight loves the Rib-B-Q sandwiches served in the cafeteria.
    • One of the squirrels likes nuts.
  • Tranquil Fury: Rabbski falls into this when Tommy, Kellen and Harvey are sent to her office in "Rise Of The Fortune Wookiee".
    Tommy: The calm tone in her voice was even scarier than Mr. Howell's yelling at us.
  • Unexpected Kindness: In "The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett", Principal Rabbski finds out that the drama club is secretly performing their Olivia Twist play during lunch. Cassie thinks they're going to be in trouble for doing this without her permission, but Rabbski is actually proud of their performance and says they've got "spunk".
  • Unspoken Retort: In "The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee", Murky notes in his narration that whenever Randy the mall cop annoys the guys by reminding them that they can't be without an adult after 7 PM, he (Murky) thinks, "YEAH, RANDY, WE KNOW, BUT IT'S ONLY 5:30, YOU IDIOT!"
  • Unusual Euphemism: The kids replace profanities with names of things from Star Wars (i.e., "What the Fett?") note .
  • Verbal Tic: Harvey will usually say "Uh" right before a sarcastic remark.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Harvey isn't a true villain, but he takes every available opportunity to antagonize Dwight. He even plays it up by making finger puppets of evil characters from the Star Wars series to counter Dwight and his Yoda.
  • Warning Mistaken for Threat: In the second book, Dwight's Origami Yoda gives the cheerleader Jen the rather menacing advice: "Zero hour comes! Prepare to meet your doom!" Dwight's rival Harvey reports this to the school and they assume this was a threat, leading Dwight to be nearly expelled. As it turns out, though, this was actually warning Jen to not blow off her book report, lest she get a zero and thus get kicked out of JV cheerleading.
  • We Used to Be Friends: It's implied Harvey used to at least be on friendly terms with Tommy and the others (Tommy even introduces Harvey as his friend at the beginning of the first book, but by the start of the second book he's reviled by pretty much everybody.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Marcie, an 8th grader from the 1st book. She never appears after the chapter she's introduced in and isn't mentioned again in the series. Justified, since she'd have most likely graduated and be in high school by the time the second book starts, a year after the first.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Rabbski's first name is "Lougene".
    Harvey: Can you believe her name is Lougene?
  • Worthy Opponent: Harvey eventually comes to view Dwight as this, calling him an "excellent enemy", and joins the others in the third book in asking him to come back from Tippett.