Tom Angleberger: Writer, Origamist, Corset-Loosener

by Amy Kraft on June 25, 2011

At Book Expo, I picked up a marvelous signed copy of Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger. I had no idea what to expect beyond the two subtitles of the book: The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset. Yes, corset. But I will come back to that.

In the About the Author section at the end of the book, Tom Angelberger cites Charles Dickens and Daniel Pinkwater as influences and I thought that was absolutely perfect. If Dickens and Pinkwater got together and birthed a book, this would be that book.

It all begins with the aforementioned corset-loosening. You see, M’Lady Luggertuck, the Lady of Smugwick Manor, is a nasty sort who always likes things tight. Imagine the shock throughout the manor on the day she asked her maid, “Not quite so tight today, Crotty.” It was a Unprecedented Marvel (so says the book). When the servents of the house heard that, everything went a bit haywire. There was a feeling in the air that everyone could get away with a bit more than usual. And many tried, except for our hero, Horton Halfpott, a stable boy who followed every order to the letter so that he may take home pennies to save for his ailing father’s medical care.

I fear I’m making this sound too dry. Imagine Fred and George Weasley (plus one of them cloned), and you’d have Bump, Blemish, and Blight, the other three stable boys. And there’s the Fiendish Mystery in which the lump – the Luggertuck’s prize possession – goes missing. Now there’s a lazy, famous detective and the press that follows him in the mix. Shipless Pirates get involved. And a lovely, cool heiress named Celia. Is she going to fall for Montgomery the dim-witted or the odious Luthor Luggertuck? No, Reader, she is not.

Tom Angleberger’s writing so delighted me that I was about six chapters in when I made my way to a bookstore to buy his much-touted first novel, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. I knew I’d want more when I finished Horton Halfpott, and sure enough, want more I did.

The title character, Origami Yoda, is exactly what it sounds like – origami folded to look like Yoda. Origami Yoda could be found perched on the finger of one of the strangest kids at school, Dwight. No one would pay any attention, except that Origami Yoda begins dispensing some excellent advice, advice too good it seems for Dwight to offer on his own. So the case is: Is Origami Yoda real? Is The Force really at work?

A bunch of different kids write down their experiences with Origami Yoda to put in the case file, and the skeptic among the friends, Harvey, comments on them while Tommy tries to piece all the evidence together. Of course, what Tommy really wants to know is if the cute and cool Sara likes him. Could Origami Yoda have the key to winning her affection?

These books are super appealing, and what I realized after reading both of them is that these are what romances for boys look like. I really can’t wait for Tom Angleberger’s follow-up to Origami Yoda due out in August, Darth Paper Strikes Back. I have my Origami Darth from Book Expo ready to bring me over to the dark side.

Like these books you will.

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