Yodalicious + the American Revolution = Great Reading

Here’s a bit I like:

“Yoda helped Mike stop being a softball crybaby, so I figured I would ask for his advice.  But Dwight wouldn’t let me.  ‘O-nay ay-way, eeto-Chay og-Hay,’ he said.  ‘C’mon Dwight, that’s what I need to ask Yoda about.’  ‘Orget it-fay,’ he said.  But then something really scary happened!  His right hand shot up in the air, and the Yoda puppet was on one finger.  ‘Cheetos for everyone you must buy,’ said Dwight in his Yoda voice.  And then he put his hand over his OWN MOUTH!  But he kept right on talking…” (p. 67)

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Author:  Tom Angleberger

Just in time for the release of Darth Paper Strikes Back, I finally read The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.   I was scared, I’ve got to admit.  One the one hand, I am a pretty big Star Wars fan, but on the other, I didn’t really love the last book I read by Angleberger (Horton Halfpott).  But I DID really enjoy this book!  The story is told in many voices, but the main one is that of Tommy.  Tommy’s friend Dwight is quite the dork, but when he pulls out his origami Yoda finger puppet, the “puppet” seems to give great advice to Tommy and his friends.  Tommy has a big question for Yoda, but wants to determine if Yoda’s powers are for real.  He pulls together stories of his friends interacting with both Yoda and Dwight as a sort of case file to review before deciding whether to trust in Yoda.  The different stories are often funny, but there are some serious issues that run underneath all the sixth grade angst and hijinks.  How important is fitting in?  How do you accept someone who is different?

I had a few kids who read this book last year based on the Star Wars tie-in alone.  The book isn’t really about Star Wars at all, but a fan will find many references to that universe peppered throughout the novel.  At 4.7-ish, the level is very readable for my fifth graders, and the story has a nice balance of humor and more serious content.  I think the multiple voices are unusual in a story at this level, but its a good introduction to that style of writing because the stories all connect to one central character, Dwight/Yoda.  I’m not planning anything big for The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, but I can see having 2-3 copies available for a couple of book buddies to read and discuss together.

King George:  What Was His Problem?

Author:  Steve Sheinkin

The tricky thing about teaching American history to fifth graders is this:  on the one hand, you don’t have to get into the picky, gory details of every little battle or event, because that would bore them to pieces and kill their curiosity.  On the other hand, often what makes history interesting are the stories–the quirky, or bloody, or surprising little stories that run around the edges of the sweeping events and turning points of history.  So Sheinkin’s book solves a big problem for me.  I can focus instruction on the concepts and big events of the American Revolution, but then I can read this lovely, clever book to provide those stories that make history compelling.  Sheinkin describes events from the French and Indian War to the Treaty of Paris in interesting little chunks.  Stories about the famous, the infamous, and the forgotten that all come together to make history.  And he throws in lots of humor, including a sadly missed salmon lunch that John Hancock was really looking forward to and the difficult task General Washington had when his soldiers were running around naked near a river bank, offending the locals.

But this is not a book of minutiae, though it contains much that might be considered trivial.  Somehow, all that trivia ends up revealing some of the complexity of the times and the people.  It’s kind of perfect for my purposes.  I am already counting the days until April, when I can read this baby aloud to my class!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cammie
    Sep 02, 2011 @ 14:05:32

    This was also on my summer reading list and I loved it! It was much better than I expected and I could immediately envision the students who will enjoy it.

    Reply

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