The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett: Origami Yoda, Book 4

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett: Origami Yoda, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Clever sequel gets tweens to think about how they're taught.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

In the course of calculating how to bring down test scores, the Origami Rebel Alliance kids use, and explain, mathematical formulae to find averages and percentages. Young readers will learn about middle school curriculum and social culture, and be able to follow the book's instructions to fold their own origami Jabba the Puppett.

Positive Messages

Whereas the other books in the Origami Yoda series emphasize values of individualism as well as friendship, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett shows that there's strength in numbers, and that some jobs require teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As in Books 1-3 in this series, Tommy and Dwight continue to be wise and creative leaders, at least for middle schoolers.

Violence
Sex

One of the boys observes a girl he likes engaged in a "public display of affection" with another boy. He says they are "kissing and worse."

Language

Some of the kids use an invented language to say whether something's awesome or awful, but others say things "suck."

Consumerism

Some of the same name brands mentioned in the previous three installments return, including lots of Star Wars references. Others are Wendy's (and Frosties), Lego, Minecraft, the book Twilight, and Domino's and Papa John's pizza.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett is the fourth book in Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda series about the funny, unusual students at McQuarrie Middle School. This installment finds the school curriculum changed to focus on teaching to the test. Special study sessions replace most electives, and students want their arts, music, and Lego engineering classes back. This central conflict raises topical concerns about the emphasis on standardized test scores and declining funding for arts education. As in the other books in the series, students create origami versions of their favorite Star Wars characters. They also bemoan the difference between the cafeteria's new healthy menu and their beloved fast food (Wendy's, Domino's, Papa John's). The tweens have crushes on members of the opposite sex, and one boy sees the girl he likes "kissing and worse" with another boy. The parents of a character from a fundamentalist Christian family worry that their son's interest in The Force is sacrilegious.

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What's the story?

As was hinted in the previous volume of Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda series, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, Dwight has been allowed to return to McQuarrie Middle School, but the seventh graders now face a much bigger challenge. Their school did poorly on its standardized tests, so the school board and administration discontinue electives and replace them with "FUNtime," a study program focusing on academic FUNdamentals. FUNtime includes plentiful worksheets and videos of a cartoon singing calculator; the kids feel insulted and bored. On Origami Yoda's advice, students form a Rebel Alliance that requires a lot of teamwork, numerous origami Star Wars characters, and a mathematical response to Principal Rabbski's demands that test scores must go up.

Is it any good?

THE SURPRISE ATTACK OF JABBA THE PUPPETT is full of clever line drawings, laughs, and quirky, Star Wars-obsessed middle school characters who question authority in a very relatable way. Book 4 in the Origmai Yoda series also raises some essential, topical questions about the role of arts and creativity in the age of teaching to the test. A clever, enjoyable novel, it will make kids think about issues that affect their own education.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of arts education vs. teaching to the test. Which characters in The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett do you think are on the right side of this debate? Have there been similar issues at your school?

  • How do you like Book 4 compared with the first three books in the series? What's different about it from the earlier volumes?

  • Make your own Jabba the Puppett by following the instructions at the back of the book.

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