Books your child should like because of the movies (there are worse reasons to read)

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Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Published by Harper, 2009
117 pages
Opening line:
There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place.

During an endless winter, an odd, crippled, unlucky boy runs away from home. When he encounters three animals and their strange tale—a bear missing a hammer, a tricky fox, and a one-eyed eagle—he finds himself in the middle of a battle to save Asgard, the City of the Norse Gods, from the Frost Giants.

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Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Published by Amulet Books, 2010
141 pages
Opening line:
The big question: Is Origami Yoda real?

Is Origami Yoda a wise sage who can predict the future, or just a finger puppet belonging to the strangest kid in the sixth grade? Lines are drawn, friendships are threatened, and the whole story is revealed in “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.”

What do these two books have in common? Both are captivating middle-grade novels. Both are books I bought for my son and ended up reading myself. And both are stories that kids who love movies and video games should have no problem enjoying.

While this strategy has yet to work on my own kid, it may work on yours.

I admit it, I bought Odd and the Frost Giants because I have a writer’s crush on Neil Gaiman. But by the time I read it, I’d seen The Avengers, and I had a full-blown crush on Thor. Even though my kids are a bit too young for all that death and destruction on the big screen, they eat it up in Lego Marvel Superheroes, the video game. They are well-acquainted with Asgard, Thor, Loki, and the Rainbow Bridge. Do I justify their hours in front of the screen as an introduction to Norse mythology? I’m not that self-delusional. But did I hope it would inspire an interest in this book?

I haven’t given up yet.

The book is everything you’d want a children’s novel to be—a tale of adventure and bravery, rich with honest, beautiful language that takes you straight to the heart of the story. I read it in less than an hour. It would make a great book to read aloud to a younger child. For independent readers, it is self-contained, story-wise. The many references to Norse mythology could be a springboard to learning more.

Origami Yoda has tapped into that brilliant Star Wars marketing engine that started in the 70’s and hasn’t stopped yet. Yes, I bought it because there was a cute, crumply Yoda on the cover. That alone should make my son love it. What more could an eight-year old boy hope for in a book?

A can’t-put-me-down sense of pacing and plot? Believe it or not, this book had those. I was the one who ended up hooked. The first thing I noticed was the notebook-like pages and handwriting-like font. We’re detoxing from The Wimpy Kid series, but I realized in Origami Yoda, the format was consistent with the “case file” presentation. I liked it. The chapters jump from kid to kid, as the main character builds his case in favor of the finger puppet. Meanwhile, the plot revolves around some classic boy-girl tension as a monthly school dance looms.

Despite the, dare I say, “love story” angle, the main theme of the book seems to be about not taking your friends for granted. Very appropriate middle-grade fare.

Most importantly, it has plenty of Star Wars references for the true fan. Origami Yoda is first in the series that contains Darth Paper Strikes Back, Secret of the Fortune Wookie, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, and Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue.

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