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Middle Grade Author Tom Angleberger

An Interiew with the Author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda


Photo of middle grade author Tom Angleberger

Author of the Origami Yoda books

Tom Angleberger

My Interview with Author Tom Angleberger

I think The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (What's it about?)is a very funny middle grade novel, and I was delighted to learn about the sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back, which was to be released August 23, 2011. Before then, author Tom Angleberger and I emailed back and forth about his books. Below are the questions I asked him and his responses.

You have been a reporter for a number of years. What prompted you to write children's fiction?
In the 8th grade, I a) worked for the school paper and b) started writing a book.
 Variations on these two things have been a constant ever since and I do love both. But the freedom from a daily or weekly deadline makes writing books a lot more fun.

When do you find time to write and what schedule/process do you follow, if any, when you are working on a book?

 I don't often push myself to work when the ideas aren't there. I wait for the ideas. Sometimes I have to wait a long time. Then when they come I have to hope I can find time to get them all down.

The story of Origami Yoda is not only funny, it is really wacky. What gave you the idea?

An origami master named Fumiaki Kawahata folded an amazing Origami Yoda. I saw a photo of it and wanted to make my own, but it was just too hard!
So, I fiddled about with some green paper until I made my own super simple Origami Yoda and it worked like a finger puppet.
 From there the book just flowed... What would a Yoda puppet say? Could it give advice that would turn losers into winners? What about a kid like me who hated/loved to play baseball. Could it save him?
 But if that first puppet hadn't fit on my finger... there would be no book!

What does the Origami Yoda figure represent to you?

That would be telling...

What does the Origami Yoda figure seem to represent to the kids who write to you?

All the awesomeness of Star Wars in a tiny package.

Your second book for kids is very different from The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, but equally wacky. What's with the title and how would you describe Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset?
Well, a lot of Victorian novels have long or multiple subtitles. Horton is an affectionate parody/imitation/pastiche of Dickens, Wilkie Collins, et al. 
 It was actually inspired by Dickens' Bleak House. Not having finished the book, I didn't yet realize what a tragic figure M'Lady Deadlocke was. I simply saw the inherent humor in someone constantly being referred to as "M'Lady."
 I started writing about an outrageous M'Lady character, but that plucky kitchen boy, Horton Halfpott, sort of took over the book.

How have responses by kids to Horton Halfpott differed from their responses to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda?

 I think (hope) kids are enjoying Horton, but for some Origami Yoda becomes something of an obsession. Kids send me pictures of all the origami Yodas they are making and -- even better-- the origami they've invented themselves.

Do you get a lot of questions from kids about whether the characters in your books, particularly The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, are based on people you know? What's your response?

Yes. And the answer is, "yes." I tell them that while Dwight is not exactly me, we both know what it's like to be the weirdest kid in school.
 And I sometimes tell them that -- once we both grew up, of course -- I married one of the characters from the book. Can you guess who?

Did you marry Caroline?
Yep, you guessed it! Caroline is based on kidlit author/illustrator Cece Bell.

Did you plan a sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda from the start or decide to do one in response to readers' enthusiasm for The Strange Case of Origami Yoda?
Oddly, I didn't. I guess I first started thinking about it after my editor -- the incredible Susan Van Metre -- wanted more about Harvey in the first book. I realized that his story would make a great sequel.

What can readers expect in Darth Paper Strikes BacK?
Dwight and Origami Yoda are back, but this time Harvey has made an origami Darth Vader. They have joined forces to rule the galaxy, or at least the middle school. Their goal is to destroy Origami Yoda once and for all ... and that might mean destroying Dwight, too.

Where did you get the idea for a Darth Paper figure?
From kids! Everywhere I went, THEY wanted Origami Darth Vader. That fit perfectly with telling Harvey's story. If Harvey was going to do battle with Dwight, it's obvious that he would make a Darth Vader to try to destroy Origami Yoda.

Things are going to get really rough. I hope those kids who wanted Vader knew what they were asking for. You don't bring Darth Vader to middle school without things getting ugly!

Does Darth Paper Strikes BacK follow the same format as The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, with each chapter written by a different character, followed by responses?
Mostly. There is a longer section following the casefile this time. The casefile has a specific purpose -- Save Dwight! -- so there needed to be a section where we find out if it filled that purpose or not.

Is Harvey the narrator?
No, he's the perpetrator! He does get to make comments again and gets his say in a bigger way as well...

One final question: Are you working on any other books now?

Of course! I'm about to start revisions on the next book, which is called Fake Mustache: How Jody O'Rodeo (and some guy) Saved The World. It's a very silly thriller about a presidential election, which will be only slightly less wacky than the real one.

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