Lists: Mind Over Matter
Psychic powers. Telekinesis, precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy . . . to name a few of the most well-known. These special abilities fall in the crack between science fiction and fantasy. Sometimes these talents are decidedly fantasy, other times these gifts appear to have scientific or evolutionary origins. There’s plenty of debate on whether psychic powers actually do exist. But there’s no debate that they can make for some amazingly good stories.
The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts (Aladdin, c1980)
This is an old science fiction psi story, but a good one (probably why it’s still in print). Thank goodness Aladdin added a decent cover! Katie Welker has had the ability to move objects with her mind for as long as she can remember. She’s learned to hide her abilities from those around her, and she’s become something of a handful for anyone who cares for her. But Katie badly wants to belong. And then she discovers there are others out there like her, with silver eyes and strange talents like her own . . . can she find a way to contact them? This psi-power story is one of my favorites.
Matilda by Roald Dahl (Puffin, c1988)
I still remember the day I opened this book. I think I actually looked up from reading at some point and told my mother. “Mom she’s an amazing reader and she has psychic powers! It’s like the author wrote a book for me!” Matilda is undoubtedly the most famous of Dahl’s female protagonists. A little girl who is an absolute genius and reads everything she can get her hands on is terribly neglected by her family. When she discovers she has the ability to move objects with her mind, Matilda decides to use her abilities in defense of her beloved school teacher against a tyrannical principal. Another telekinetic whose a handful and a half of trouble!
Hypnotize Me by Gordon Korman (Expected publication by Scholastic, August 2013)
This 2013 title is the first in a series by Korman. Instead of the traditional psi powers, he tackles one that’s a bit different–but no less famous. The power to hypnotize and bend people to one’s will. Jax Opus has always known he’s a bit different from most kids, that people act strangely around him. But when his bus driver tears through traffic like a madman to get to his stop, and his psychologist nearly jumps out the window, it’s gone beyond strange. Turns out, Jax has the gift to instantly hypnotize people and control what they think and imagine is happening. As Jax learns to control his abilities, he discovers that power is a dangerous responsibility to have–and knowing who to trust may be more difficult than he could imagine. An interesting take on the psi-powers idea, I’ll be curious to see how this series develops!
Freakling by Lana Krumweide (Candlewick, 2012)
Taemon lives in a world where psi power is the norm. Everyone is able to move objects with their mind and their entire close-knit society is built around the ability to manipulate objects telekinetically. But Taemon’s gifts are different from the usual abilities–he can understand the working of things just by studying them, and use that knowledge in new and frightening ways. He hides these extra abilities for fear that they would bring harm to his family and possibly exile for Taemon himself. Tough choices in a dystopian-style future make this an interesting middle grade read. It’s the first in a series, and I’m curious to see where Taemon (and Lana Krumwiede) will take us next.
Mind-Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden (Atheneum, 1981)
This particular series is very solidly out of print. Which is rather tragic, since its one of the most fascinating–and creepy–stories of psi powers I’ve ever read. I loved the three connected stories by this author so much, I sought out the rare out of print copies to own for myself. In this story there has been a massive earthquake and several surviving children feel themselves summoned together. Each of them is gifted in some way . . . and it turns out there is a nefarious mind at the source of the “mind-call” that these children received and he has nothing good planned. Somehow they’ll have to put a stop to his dark schemes and discover a new purpose in the process. The other two books are Mind-Hold (1987), and Mind-Find (1988). Each book deals with a different cast of characters dealing with psi powers. Would love to see these reprinted!
Dr. Chill’s Project by Thomas Hoobler (Putnam Publishing, 1987)
There were apparently a lot of psi-power stories in the 80s. This was another one that intrigued me. Dr. Chill works with a group of youngsters who have been troubled lives–and amazing gifts. The newest member of the group is Allie, who can make objects move with her mind when she’s angry. Angry stand offs with the motley crew of other kids living with her slowly gives way to real friendship. But that friendship will be put to the test when one of their friends disappears . . . and they begin to suspect there’s more to Dr. Chill’s project than he’s telling them. An emotional journey through madness and anger into strength and hope, with the power of friends. Another that’s been out of print, but was recently released in e-book form.
The Dream Catcher by Monica Hughes (Atheneum, 1987)
One of these days, I’m going to have to dig out my copies of a few books and scan the covers in–I’m astonished that I can’t find a decent image of this cover anywhere! Monica Hughes wrote whole armfuls of science fiction for kids in the 80s, but this particular follow-up book to Devil on My Back (1984) featured an entire post apocalyptic community where everyone has psi powers. In this story, Ruth is a misfit who can’t make her mind meld with the others in harmony. She’s constantly distracted by visions and songs that seem to come from nowhere. When the truth is discovered, it will send Ruth and others from her community on an adventure into the unknown world to face its wonders and dangers head on. Another 80s favorite–I have a love of misfits!
Hidden Talents by David Lubar (Starscape, c1999)
A more recent contribution to the field. Edgeview Alternative School was the last stop for troubled kids like Martin. But what he finds there are that there other kids at the school like himself . . . other kids with hidden talents. Armed with these abilities, these perceived “losers” are going to prove they’re anything but–and save the day for their school! Some classic psi powers here like clairvoyance, telekinesis, fire starting, finding objects etc.
These are just a few of the books out there that deal with psychic powers. What are some of your favorites?
Posted on June 14, 2013, in General Posts, Lists and tagged Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, fantasy, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, Science Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.