Friday, October 23, 2015

Tom Angleberger

Some of Jasper's happiest memories have been of the times he's gotten to meet his heroes, the authors of his favorite books.  We got to meet Tom Angleberger recently at A Children's Place, a darn good bookstore in NE Portland. Tom Angleberger is famous for his series of books which begins with "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda", about a group of kids at a small town American middle school who find that the geekiest kid in school offers answers to their most pressing problems through the voice of an origami finger puppet of Yoda. The answers prove to be both somewhat mysterious and unaccountably wise.  I've often wondered if Tom has a love-hate relationship with these books, because he is likely giving Lucasfilms a portion of the royalties.  Also they have instant appeal among the legions of Star Wars fans, which is wonderful for getting kids to read them.  But somewhat ironically what makes them wonderful isn't that they feature references to Star Wars, it's that they are strikingly original.  I hope he's getting some of the love back from Lucasfilms, which recently partnered with Disney to publish three new Star Wars novels and selected Tom as one of the writers.  The resulting book is "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi — Beware the Power of the Dark Side!". He was on a book tour in support of his new children's picture book called "McToad Mows Tiny Island".  He said he wanted to work with an exceptional illustrator, and praised the fantastic results. Yet I believe he demonstrates admirably in his Origami Yoda books that is own illustrations more than make up for his lack of technical drawing skill with great humor and expressiveness. 

His presentation was amazing!  He took a large drawing pad and doodled characters from his many books along with crazy things suggested by his audience to tell a whole story in one epic drawing. Each drawing was given away to a kid who correctly answered a trivia question from his books.  As a finale, all the kids were given paper, folding along with his instructions to create an Origami Yoda puppet. Jasper was over the moon when he was chosen to help demo the folds with a giant piece of well creased paper. Tom was bursting with energy, warmth and good humor.  Afterwards I learned that it was the end of a very long day, at the end of a very long book tour, and he must have been exhausted.  But if he was, he never showed it. Bravo!

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