Flashback Fridays: “You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running . . .”

You’re one of a group of kids who has survived a huge natural disaster.  You’re struggling to survive against the elements, and you know you’re being called by some other force out there.  Wherever the mysterious summons is leading you, you know there’s eventually going to be a meeting of minds . . . and quite possibly a battle of them.  Do you remember:

Mind-Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden (Atheneum, 1981)

This book is the first in a set of three books dealing with young people that possess psychic powers.  All three books are loosely linked together, but focus on the stories of a different set of main characters.  This first story takes place after there is some kind of massive earthquake that leaves everyone adrift and alone  and struggling to rescue themselves.  Our main characters are a group of special kids who manage to find each other after the quake.  Each one of them possesses some kind of special “gifts” and all have felt a strange call to journey to a mountain stronghold called Logan House.  When the group arrives, they encounter an old but powerful man who is ferociously interested in continuing his dynasty and controlling the various gifts of the youngsters in his clutches. It’s going to be a battle of wills to see who ultimately will control their destinies.

Creepy, fascinating, and one of the first series I ever read that dealt with the issues of psychic powers beyond the stereotypical.

The second book:

Mind-Hold by Wilanne Schneider Belden (Houghton Mifflin, c1987)

This story also begins at the time of the earthquake.  Thirteen year old Carson and his nine-year-old sister Caryl survive the quake, but decide to leave the city they’ve called home.  Carson, an empath has struggled in caring for his willful and controlling telekinetic sister since  she was born.  With little parental support, he has been more parent to her than brother.  But now that they are on the run, things are going to get more complicated.  On their way through the desert they’re taken in by the Rightway Community.   What seems a pleasant, if strict and isolated community soon shows itself to be an oppressive cult with a controlling leader.  When Caryl’s wild gifts are discovered, Carson fears what will happen to her at the hands of that leader.

This is a complex and dark story with some beautiful and thoughtful moments.  You get to see the protagonists of the original story when they make an appearance near the end of this one.  Again, this was the first book where I saw psychic ability imagined quite so vividly.  Prior to this, I’d read The Girl With the Silver Eyes where Katie is a rebellious and misunderstood girl with telekinetic and psychic powers.  It’s a simpler and younger story than this one   Rather than   providing these kids with “superpowers” these gifts come with heavy prices in misunderstanding and struggle for control both good and bad.  Belden seems most interested in exploring the human emotions and relationships and how psychic gifts that these characters have can strengthen those bonds or tear them apart.

The third book (which was actually the one I read first is:

Mind-Find by Wilanne Schneider Belden (Houghton Mifflin, 1988)

Laurel Raimey has a secret.  She’s a psychic finder.  If she knows something, or someone is lost she can figure out where it is.  Laurel’s father is a psychic researcher and the last thing that Laurel wants is to become her father’s live-in guinea pig.  But when her summer with her father brings her into contact with a remarkable family of specially gifted people, Laurel starts to come out of her shell and come to terms with who she is and what she can do.

The “gentlest” book of the three.  Unlike the other two books that have nefarious individuals threatening our protagonists, this book deals more with a coming of age tale, and Laurel’s own growth.  For all that it’s a quieter story, it’s still a favorite of mine.

Wilanne Schneider Belden wrote two other fantasy books for middle graders that I’m aware of: Frankie (HMH, 1987) and The Rescue of Ranor (Atheneum, 1983).  Other than a few magical cat short stories for some adult fantasy anthologies, that’s pretty much it.  The author is still alive as far as I can determine, but she’s clearly not pursued her writing.  Which is a shame.  The Mind-Call series is one where had she written further books, I’d have happily snapped them up.  And not only are there no other books, but these three books are not easy to come by.  All are seriously out of print, with no ebooks in sight.   Mind-Find and Mind-Hold can be purchased fairly reasonably from used booksellers, but the cheapest copies of Mind-Call generally run 40-50 dollars, with some copies listing as high as 400 dollars or more.    It’s frustrating for a fan like me, because now that I finally have scored a copy of the book, I dare not let it go.  And this is a series I want to share with others.

When it comes to the best kid’s books featuring psychic powers, these remain some of the top titles I can think of.

Have you read this series?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on August 24, 2013, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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