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The Paper Puzzle Book: All You Need is Paper!

Ilan Garibi, David Goodman, and Yossi Elran
World Scientific
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Geoffrey Dietz
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The title of this book fairly accurately explains its content and purpose. Readers will receive ten chapters of puzzles and activities that can be done with paper (and on a few occasions some other simple household supplies). Each puzzle or activity clearly states the supplies needed and a difficulty rating. Each puzzle also includes a full solution at the end of the chapter. There is enough variation in difficulty that the book should be enjoyable for both novices and puzzle enthusiasts of all ages. While some of the puzzles or activities will be familiar to enthusiasts, there are plenty of original problems from the authors as well.

Novices should definitely read the opening section on “How to use this book” in order to understand the folding diagrams and the supplies needed. Novices should also consider reading the Appendix before starting in order to pick up a few folding tips that are useful in the first chapter. I would also caution novices not to be discouraged if they find many of the puzzles in the first chapter overly difficult at first. Indeed, I am not sure I agree with the ordering of the opening chapter as I think the opening few puzzles should be “gimmes” to build skills and confidence before tackling harder problems. While the first problem is two stars, the next seven are all three stars, followed by some one-star easier problems. So, while the true enthusiast will thrive on the challenge presented, the novice may find more enjoyment in accepting some of the harder problems as activities using the solutions as a guide.

While the first four chapters concentrate on various types of paper-folding puzzles, chapters five and six are more activity-based and concentrate on Möbius strips and flexagons. Chapters seven and eight go back to puzzles, but are puzzles that require cutting as well. The brief ninth chapter presents some puzzles concerning arrangements of pieces of paper instead of folding or cutting. The final chapter contains more activities, including some classic paper toys (such as helicopters and noise makers), some magic tricks, and even an improvised bottle opener.

Supplies needed are most often square-shaped paper, rectangular-shaped paper, or a long strip of paper. In a few cases two-sided Kami paper is needed or the specific dimensions of A4 paper are needed. For one problem in chapter eight, you need very thick paper, paper thick enough to slice into two thinner layers in a small location. Although paper only is needed for the vast majority of the book, there are a few places where you may need a bit of tape or glue or a pair of scissors. (Most of these are in Chapters 4–8.) A couple of activities in Chapter 10 require a dollar bill and a couple of paper clips. Other than these small exceptions, the book does live up to its claim that “All you need is paper.”

Overall the book is excellent and should be enjoyable to a large audience. I even tested the book by handing it and some paper squares to some teenagers on a long car trip. They stayed fairly absorbed in it for the bulk of the trip.

I have a few gripes with the book. These mainly occurred to me in the first chapter, where I felt a bit cheated by a few solutions that used partial folds or pinches to avoid instructions that the paper not be creased in certain places. I only wish that those sorts of issues could have been more clearly stated at the start of the chapter, but these small complaints do not take away from an otherwise engaging and entertaining book.

Geoffrey Dietz is a Professor of Mathematics at Gannon University in Erie, PA. He is married and has six children.

  • Just Folding
  • Origami Puzzles
  • 3D Folding Puzzles
  • Sequence Folding
  • Strips of Paper
  • Flexagons
  • Fold and Cut
  • Just Cutting
  • Overlapping Paper Puzzles
  • More Fun with Paper