Flashback of a Flashback Fridays: Heeding the Call . . .


You’re a girl who wakes up after an earthquake alone in her house.  But you’re prepared.  You’ve been dreaming about this very day for months, and hearing a strange call to an unfamiliar house.  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.

Otalie  has been having precognitive dreams for  months about the disaster and it has given her time to prepare.  She knows she’s going to be left behind by her abusive uncle, so she’s simply getting herself ready to survive. Pragmatic Otalie may be young but she has no time for dramatics, she heads out and heeds the strange mental call of a baby in distress.  She takes the baby with her and takes on the identity of his dead sister in order to keep them both safe. then finds her way to a huge house in the mountains where her dreams have “called” her to go.  Others arrive in turn, also called to the house, kids with special psychic gifts.  Otalie is the one who seems ready to take charge, especially in her determination to handle the master of Logran house and keep the other kids from harm.   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.  Wilanne Schneider Belden creates an unusual story here with some rich character crafting and fascinating storytelling.  It’s an odd enough sort of story that I think it might have been hard for some kids to love, but once I actually secured a copy (this book is the hardest to find of the three) I found it fascinating.  (Of course the dreadful cover couldn’t have helped its popularity.)

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 kids from Logran house are part of the story near the second half, and act as a an answer to how can kids with these gifts learn to use them safely and positively.

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

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

This is the third book, and it takes place well after the earthquake, in a different part of the country.  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.  By the end of the summer she’ll be put to the test and called up on to use her gifts in order to save people stranded and in danger.

Logran house makes a cameo appearance towards the end, linking this book with the other two in the series. 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 ofMind-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!


About Stephanie Whelan

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

Posted on August 21, 2015, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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