CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 18 . . . .May 13, 2005
I eyed my copy of Are You Psychic? The Official Guide for Kids with as much enthusiasm as I would finding Jo Jo's Psychic Network spam on my computer. My sixth sense told me this was light weight kid-lit info-tainment, and my aura suggested I was feeling cynical. Instead, I found a wonderful, cleverly presented treatment of a topic that will lure any kid in and spare them future encounters with fortune telling bleach blonds on late night TV and mysterious credit card charges.
Are You Psychic? rolls age appropriate, quality information (think first year psychology course) into a snazzy package, with the perfect "all about me" perspective that late elementary, early middle school aged kids love. Every kid wonders about the paranormal, and their own possible gifts, and Helaine Becker gives readers a chance to test their ability with easy to replicate activities, while also supplying sensible alternative explanations for "freaky" coincidences. She introduces the topic with the correct terminology and historical context and then explores the work of parapsychologists and how psychic phenomenon is understood in the field of psychology. The fakes and phonies are then discussed, valuable information that many adults could benefit from. Becker does a wonderful job of describing how small nuggets of personal information, and our propensity to accept anything that casts us in a positive light, can be strung into "facts" that might influence future behaviour. How clairvoyants have been used in fighting crime, what the colour of your "aura" is believed to say about you, how dowsing rods work and how to build one, and how to test your pet's psychic ability are all great fun and offer a little practice in research methods to boot. Fortune telling and psychokinesis is also explored, including historical information and hints on "myth busting."
The activities range from replicating simple psychology experiments, to documenting dreams, practicing relaxation techniques, and becoming aware of one's emotional state and surrounding environment through the senses. They are spread throughout the book, cleverly disguising the "educational" bits from the fun. I loved learning to read tea leaves with my kids, and we're planning a trip to the second hand store for spoons we can try to bend like Uri Geller. I was particularly impressed with the care Becker took in not judging or preaching, but letting kids assess the information and make their own decision on whether ESP is real. As she writes, "Nothing is certain and that's for certain." But she supplies all the necessary tools and lines of inquiry to lead young readers toward a healthy skepticism of the more unsavory aspects of psychic phenomenon.
This bright, cartoon illustrated book would be a great addition to a classroom or school library, and even a fun birthday present. There's no need to tell readers that they're getting a great introduction to social science and being steeped in exploring evidence, weighing facts, and developing critical thinking skills along the way.
Lori Walker is completing a Masters in Children's Literature at UBC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.