Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus: Origami Yoda, Book 6

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus: Origami Yoda, Book 6 Book Poster Image
Field-trip mayhem in smart, satisfying end to clever series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Several passing references may send readers scurrying to the Internet to learn more about kirigami, the Nakamura Lock, and the Bell X-1. The closing pages include instructions for folding Emperor Pickletine and Flying Darth Vader.

 

Positive Messages

Empathy is the strong theme running through the students' self-sorting for the buses to Tommy's guilty feelings for letting down the principal and his understanding of Harvey's prickly behavior. A student who feels self-conscious about using the bathroom on the bus finds that everyone else feels the same way. The kids spend a lot of time bickering, but the friction is rooted in their desire to be connected with their friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tommy is especially thoughtful and compassionate. Collaborating on their case file, the kids engage in a terrific back-and-forth that lets everyone have his or her say. Most of the adults are reasonably portrayed -- short-tempered, which is understandable on a trip like this, and a bit strict -- but they have their human sides, too. Mr. Howell punishes the children excessively for fooling around in the museum.

Violence

One student is punched in the face, resulting in a bloody nose.

 

Sex

Romance is very much on the tweens' minds. There are several flirtations, and two characters kiss. One student sneaks a cell phone and exchanges texts and selfies with her boyfriend, to the irritation of her friend and seat mate.

 

Language

One student calls another a "butt." In illustrations, symbols represent a monkey's cuss words.

 

Consumerism

There are tons of Star Wars references woven into the story, of course, and a great many brand-name snacks are mentioned, including Fruit Roll-Ups, Wheat Thins, Funyuns, Mountain Dew, Cheetos, Rolos, Hershey's Kisses, and Red Hots. Other brands mentioned include Wendy's, Mini Cooper, and Google.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus is the sixth and final "case file" in Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda series. This time, the kids find themselves squabbling and sorting out hurt feelings. National monuments and the Smithsonian barely engage most of the students, who are far more interested in relationship dramas. A prank with relatively minor consequences enrages a museum employee and a teacher, who punishes the children harshly. The kids aren't the only ones up to mischief -- the principal and teachers engage in a bit of surprising subterfuge as well.

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What's the story?

Tommy and friends are finally on their way to Washington, D.C, after successfully saving their field trip in Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue! Their joy evaporates, however, when Principal Rabbski bans origami on the long trip. The resourceful seventh-graders make do with what they have: snacks. Dwight fashions fruit leather into a series of ephemeral Fruitigami Yodas to help them, but Harvey's wrinkly, stinky Emperor Pickletine is persistently sour. It's a long, frustrating day full of bus-seating drama, overbearing teachers, and heartbreak -- and some romantic sparks. Maybe the Sour Side won't win out after all …

 

Is it any good?

While this book explores the "Sour Side" of friendship, Tom Angleberger writes with deft understanding of middle school worries and priorities and spot-on humor. Tweens will happily hitch a ride on this bus trip of doom. Romantic aspirations complicate friendships and drive kids apart, but readers will notice that beneath it all the kids are more alike than different. The creative presentation of this series, with fully illustrated pages representing a real collaborative project, is sure to inspire similar group efforts -- and plenty of paper-folding.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Tommy's point that Harvey isn't a bad kid, he just doesn't know how to get along with people. Do you know anyone like Harvey?

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  • Was this a satisfying ending to the series?

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  • Try a collaborative writing project such as the Origami Yoda case files with your friends.

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