Book Review: ‘Advanced Origami Animals’ by Marc Kirschenbaum

Edited by Scott Summers

What do you expect from a book titled “Advanced Origami Animals” (Fit to Print Publishing, 2020)? For sure, it is a question of perspective. If your point of view is that of a novice, it should be harder than the book you just finished. For a veteran, it should be somewhere near Satoshi Kamiya’s books, with hundreds of steps for each model.

This is not the case with this book. The longest model has 129 steps (the Turtle) while the shortest is only 17 (the Swan), and the rest are around 70 steps.

You will understand why it is advanced when you start to fold. On the whole, the models here require more acrobatics than I have ever seen. Between some steps, there are maneuvers that ask for highly flexible fingers.

The Technicalities

  • Number of pages: 146
  • Number of diagram pages: 137
  • Number of models: 16

The models are presented in alphabetical order. Since there are no big differences in the difficulty level, this was a reasonable decision.

The models are not new, and some are from previous decades. Here is the full list:

  • Bunny, 2000
  • Elephant, 2004
  • Giant Panda, 1994
  • Giraffe, 2012
  • Cutie Cat, 2008
  • En Route to the Observatory, 1997
  • Koala, 2018
  • Peacock, 2013
  • Penguin, 2006
  • Raccoon, 1993
  • Reindeer, 2002
  • Skunk, 1994
  • Spectacled Bear, 2009
  • Swan, 1997
  • Toucan, 2018
  • Turtle, 2005

The book gets directly to the folding, offering only a one-page introduction and four pages of symbols. The symbols are clear and simple to understand, but if you need them, this book is not for you.

The short introduction explains the main idea: The complexity lies in the moves, not the number of steps. Marc is using some unique folding sequences that demand a better understanding of the medium.

Every model has a short description, mostly about the challenges Marc overcame while designing it as well as those standing before you as a folder.

The descriptions offer nothing beyond that, and for me, they are too spartan. There are no recommendations for paper — neither size nor type — and the final size of the model is not shown, making it difficult to plan for the paper size you need. You are expected to test-fold the model or to review the steps and guess how large the paper should be.

A typical page of diagrams.

The diagram grid is spacious, typically featuring either nine or twelve steps on a page. The diagrams are clear, error-free, and well-made. The color change between the two sides of the paper is obvious.

Folding

My personal preference is to fold iconic figures rather than those that are as true as possible to the original.

The models in this book are just as I prefer. You do not have many details, and you are not asked to conquer a bunch of squeezed layers. You can create cute, elegant or iconic animals that are more about gesture than detail.

Another appealing aspect of this book is its no-mercy attitude. This is an advanced book, and you have to face the challenges at eye level. Do not blink! The diagrams are clear but with exceptional steps that you may not recognize at first glance.

The Bunny

The Rabbit folded by Ilan Garibi.

It takes six steps to understand the concept of the book.

No beginner can go simultaneously through a crimp and a valley fold to create a squash.

A few steps later, a wraparound step, which has no reference in the glossary, stopped me for a while. This was a moment when I was happy with my paper choice, Biotope. I am not sure kami would have held here.

The finished model is flat, and there is no need to shape it. My first thought when it was done was What an acrobatic sequence!

The Elephant

The Elephant folded by Ilan Garibi.

I chose a red and white duo Thai paper from Origamishop, 30 by 30 cm. I realized it was too small, as it is a thick paper and the legs have so many layers.

The process of folding the Elephant is elegant and flowing. I lost my rhythm on step 46, but a glance back showed me that it was my mistake and not the diagrams.

The result was a satisfying elephant with accurate proportions among the body parts to display the essence of the animal in a cartoonish way.

The Koala

The Koala folded by Ilan Garibi.

I chose black Kami, 25 cm, hoping it would be large enough. I like it when the author trusts me to understand steps without too much explanation. It is like a path presented with riddles that you have to solve by yourself just by looking at the next diagram and using your origami instincts.

The paper was a perfect fit!

The result was an adorable Koala with a perfect finishing feature that made the Koala half sitting, half standing in a way that put a smile on my face.

More Animals

The Giraffe folded by Ilan Garibi.

I admire creators who manage to design a well-balanced and elegant giraffe, that can stand on the legs. This is the case here as well.

The Peacock folded by Ilan Garibi.

I also folded the Peacock, which is a lovely model with a fluent folding process. It accumulates many layers quite quickly, but the remaining folds bypass the thickest parts.

The Swan demonstrates one of the book’s rare faults, with the right side of the paper in the diagrams colored a pale gray that you can hardly distinguish from the white.

The Toucan folded by Ilan Garibi.

The Toucan demonstrates the animal’s cool, comical look, and it folded smoothly.

Conclusion

It’s been a while since I folded from a book just for the sake of folding.

This book sits in the center of my comfort zone for many good reasons. The length is just right — 30 to 45 minutes will be enough time for most models. The sequence of moves, as well as their acrobatic nature, creates the exact level of challenge that could be met with a sense of victory. Finally, the models have a charm that will capture your heart.

This is an advanced book that will give the accomplished folder a lot of good moments and will definitely provide some challenging moments for the novice folder that can be overcome with persistence.