Literary Guide for Cynthia Kadohata’s “Half a World Away”

Literary Guide for Cynthia Kadohata’s Half a World Away

Download Literary Guide for Half a World Away.

Cynthia Kadohata’s Half a World Away is a complex and emotionally-charged work of incredibly realistic fiction. Weaving together themes of family, adoption, truth, and love, the story challenges readers to consider major ethical questions as they learn about protagonist Jaden’s struggles with change and self-discovery.

Adopted from a Romanian group home at the age of 8, Jaden has never truly felt a part of his so-called family. Though his parents show him love and care for him, he struggles greatly with strong emotions and dangerous habits that he doesn’t completely understand – causing him to feel that he doesn’t truly belong in his family. Having been abandoned by his mother at a young age, he fears that something is wrong with him – something that will make history repeat itself, leading his family to eventually cast him out as well.

Jaden’s challenges come to the forefront of his consciousness during a family trip to Kazakhstan, where they are to adopt baby Bahytzan from an orphanage in the southern city of Kyzylorda. While Jaden enjoys the almost unreal quality of his experiences in Kyzylorda, his parents deal with strong emotions as they struggle to bond with the new member of their family – leaving Jaden emotionally out of the loop, as he can’t seem to be able to engage emotionally with anyone, especially not his parents or their new baby. And he can’t escape the nagging feeling that the new child is meant as a do-over, thanks to the parenting obstacles that he has presented.

Half a World Away is a powerful story of astounding depth. Readers ages 10 and older can gain insight into the complexity of human psychology and the power of experience in human development. Using our literary guide, families can work together to delve into the many layers of the story, and can take advantage of critical thinking questions and suggestions for extension activities in order to put the story into context and to develop schema to support the development of connections to the characters and their experiences.

Magic Shows: The Psychology Behind Magic Tricks & Illusions

Distraction and Influence: The Psychology of Magic

Have you ever wondered how magic tricks really work? By studying the psychology behind magic, young magicians (and young psychologists) can uncover the “secrets” behind successful magic tricks and learn lots about the human brain at the same time!

Have you ever wondered exactly how it is that magic tricks work? Great magicians manage to perform seemingly impossible feats not through any mysterious form of magic, but through the magic of psychology – the magic of which lies in the ability to subtly influence decisions and attention. Easy to study at home and at community events, magic can be an interesting entry point for studies of psychology and, in addition to gaining a better understanding of the human brain, perhaps families can learn a few tricks for themselves in the process!

Families can learn together about the connection between magic tricks and psychology by exploring research done by researchers at McGill University and the University of British Columbia. Titled ”Psychology of Magic”, the project explores human decision making – specifically, the choosing of cards from a standard deck. Research has shown that, when asked to choose any card from a deck, people choose aces much more frequently than any other card and, in particular, they most prefer the ace of spades.  Read the rest of this entry »

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