Humans not only know a story when they see one, but they are stories. This revelation, that our symbolic, linguistic mind is also our culture and that we are products of that culture, has been slowly seeping into areas outside the obscure halls of academia, and has finally reached the kids self help book market in the form of the new volume The Life Heroic: How To Unleash Your Most Amazing Self by Elizabeth Svoboda.
Zvodoba is a science writer who leans towards psychology, and the book is illustrated by Minneapolis based artist Chris Hajny.
The book is marketed for kids 10 and up. There is a lot of good advice, using the “Hero’s journey” model for how all things must be as a framework. However, the book is not written for the 10 year old reader. The style and focus of the writing is for an adult, with no obvious adjustment for younger kids. I’m not talking about themes (the book is kid safe). I’m talking about sentences. Sentences like,
The Greek philosopher Aristotle called this kind of lasting happiness eudaimonia–and he called short-lived, ephemeral happiness hedonia. Eudaimonia is much more profound than the momentary pleasure of hedonia, such as eating and ice cream cone or pranking your best friend. Eudaimonia is the lasting satisfaction you get from knowing that you’ve lived up to your highest potential. “As it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring,” Aristotle wrote, “so it is not one day or a shor time that makes a man blessed and happy.
There are many kids who could use a good self help book that won’t fit into a model of “read this book and improve” that all kids-oriented self help books follow, which means most books (including this one) have to be tested on a a given kid to see if there is any help to be had.
There is also a certain amount of Southern California Privileged soaked reality disconnect here. For example, we are told that one does not have to safely land an airplane in the Hudson River to be a hero. One merely has to develop program to distribute soccer balls to poor children in Mozambique.
Having said all these negative things, it is possible that this book will work for some kids, with certain adults moderating or mediating. From the supporting information, consider this:
“Aimed at kids, this book is also fascinating for adults. With thorough research and drawing on her expertise writing about science, Svoboda offers some remarkable takeaways about heroism”:
- Most heroes are ordinary people
- There is a hero inside everyone
- The ability to be courageous can be strengthened, just like a muscle
- Going through tough times can sharpen heroic instincts
- Being a hero doesn’t have to involve tackling an intruder or fishing someone from an icy lake—and in fact, most often doesn’t!
This thought provoking guide can be read chapter by chapter or by skimming through the bolded font. Svoboda’s book is a powerful read for tweens and teens interested in the big questions in their minds about what kind of life to lead and what actually creates meaning.
If this feels right, The Life Heroic may be a good investment.