Larry Kettelkamp Essay - Critical Essays

Kettelkamp, Larry


Larry Kettelkamp 1933–

American nonfiction writer and illustrator. Kettelkamp's nonfiction works for young adults spring primarily from his own varied interests and hobbies. A versatile musician, he has written several introductory books to the families of instruments, such as Flutes, Whistles, and Reeds. Magic and his fascination with hobby crafts have resulted in books such as Magic Made Easy and Kites. His most extensive work, however, has been done in the realm of the paranormal, covering subjects as diverse as haunted houses and hypnosis. Kettelkamp is a firm believer in reincarnation and ESP, beliefs that have led to studies like Sixth Sense and Investigating Psychics. He approaches his topics scientifically, presenting evidence from research studies and experiments as he explains the history of mankind's views of such phenomena. He has often been criticized, however, for promoting his own beliefs instead of giving objective, even-handed studies of as yet unprovable hypotheses. Kettelkamp was formerly a teacher and an art director, and he has illustrated all of his own books as well as the works of authors such as Herbert S. Zim. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 2.)

Marjorie Halderman

[Spooky Magic is] an excellent beginning for the would-be magician. The tricks are simple to perform, and after careful rehearsals to make the stunts smooth and believable any youngster can amaze and entertain his bewildered audience.

Mr. Kettelkamp understands his magic and knows how to explain it to youngsters so that they can follow his instructions, and no expensive or hard-to-obtain props are needed to handle these tricks. (p. 74)

Marjorie Halderman, in The Saturday Review (Entire issue copyright 1955 by Saturday Review Associates, Inc.; reprinted with permission), November 5, 1955.

Olive Mumford

[In Singing Strings, Kettelkamp] has attempted three things: to give a brief history of stringed instruments, to explain the scientific basis for such sound production, and to show how easily simple versions of these instruments can be made. These overlapping purposes result in confusion, as there is little continuity. Fifth and sixth-grade children capable of understanding the text would find the glossary of musical terms inadequate. (p. 3009)

Olive Mumford, in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, October 15, 1958; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1958 by Xerox Corporation), October 15, 1958.

Virginia Haviland

For music appreciation, or hobby and craft fun, [Drums, Rattles, and Bells] is an attractive and useful brief book. It gives something of the history and international use of percussion instruments and, also, directions for making noisemakers or rattles, drums of many kinds …, keyboard percussion instruments, and bells. Children should readily be intrigued. (p. 172)

Virginia Haviland, in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright, 1961, by the Horn Book, Inc., Boston), April, 1961.

Librarians who have searched in vain for a simple text on how the voice functions—the mechanics of voice production—and the functions of the voice—speech and song, will welcome [Song, Speech, and Ventriloquism, a] careful, clearly illustrated explanation. It should be especially helpful to the parent coping with a speech problem, the voice teacher training the young. The section on ventriloquism … provides a technical explanation of the phenomenon and additional bait in the form of a sample routine with a dummy. A much-needed book by a well-qualified author. (p. 135)

Kirkus Service (copyright © 1967 Virginia Kirkus' Service, Inc.), February 1, 1967.


The mechanisms of speech and voice are taken apart for readers in the upper grades [in Song, Speech, and Ventriloquism], with sensible model experiments and the tricky tests you can make with the black box of your own speech. Then the whole sense of understanding is put to real use, by building up a rationale from which anyone who will try hard, and practice, can become a genuine ventriloquist. There are even a few lines of properly old jokes. Original and intriguing, and possibly a low-key means of improving one's speech. (p. 151)

Philip and Phylis Morrison, in Scientific American (copyright © 1967 by Scientific American, Inc.; all rights reserved), December, 1967.

[Dreams is a] refined distillation of modern theories proceeding from simple to complex in a meaningful idiom. [This] demands from any reader the ability to make logical progressions from once-presented information, which restricts the potential audience. (p. 277)

Kirkus Service (copyright © 1968 Virginia Kirkus' Service, Inc.), March 1, 1968.

Dreams, a topic important to all of us, is treated somewhat superficially [in "Dreams"]. This account explains their historical, psychological and social significance and gives brief mention to the symbolism used in their interpretation. It is in this last area that the book misses (probably on purpose) the major factor, sex. Because sex—at least to Freudians—is the dominant theme in dream symbolism, the subject (symbolism) might better have been ignored than covered inadequately in deference to the young age group. (p. 52)

The New York Times Book Review, Part II (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 5, 1968.

Zena Sutherland

A topic that is of universal interest is explored in a simple, lucid book [Dreams] which describes early theories about dreaming and goes on to discuss the more scientific approach of Freud, Jung, and later research workers. This isn't comprehensive, but it is a good summary of the experiments that have been made and the facts that have been established. (p. 40)

Zena Sutherland, in Saturday Review (© 1968 by Saturday Review, Inc.; reprinted with permission), May 11, 1968.

[Dreams is a] popular monograph [that] ostensibly deals with the history and current research in the study of dreams…. Additional description of [current dream research using drugs and the electro-encephalograph] might have rendered the book more scientific and less speculative, though possibly less "popular." The latter part of the book concentrates on considerations from parapsychology, culminating in a do-it-yourself six-point program for recording one's own dreams. Interesting, but of questionable scientific worth. (p. 81)

Science Books (copyright 1968 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Vol. 4, No. 2 (September, 1968).

Jerome Beatty, Jr.

There are two approaches to ghost stories. The emotional one is to sit around a campfire at night, or lie abed in the dark, and exchange eerie tales till you're covered with goose pimples. ["Haunted Houses"] takes the second, journalistic, scientific way. It is about as spooky as a Mickey Mouse cartoon…. As a matter-of-fact look at spectral phenomena, the book serves its purpose. The final chapter is an "explanation," offering some theories to chew on…. It's all bound to be interesting to a young reader on the phantom trail, but don't look for goose pimples. (p. 26)

Jerome Beatty, Jr., in The New York Times Book Review (© 1969 by the New York Times Company; reprinted...

(The entire section is 221 words.)

Margaret A. Dorsey

[Sixth Sense is a]lucid overview of various types of psychic phenomena. The author clearly explains the nature of telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition, and also discusses psychometry, retrocognition, astral projections, mediums, possession, psychokinesis, psychic photography and healing, and the tricks of phony mediums and mentalists. Suggestions for testing and developing one's own ESP are given at the end. The author cites various case histories, the experiences of such people as Edgar Cayce, Jean Dixon and Ted Serios, and the results of laboratory experiments whenever possible, to give a generally accurate and balanced picture of present knowledge about parapsychology; however, when discussing more...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Randolph Hogan

Who among us has not experienced the physical re-enactment of a dream. This feeling, sometimes called déjà vu, is one of the many fascinating and often chilling subjects discussed in ["Sixth Sense," an] excellent book about psychic phenomena….

Beginning with a few documented cases of telepathy and clairvoyance, the author then deals with prediction of the future and its opposite number, the recollection of past events…. From here he goes to traveling consciousness, or the mind's (and sometimes the body's) ability to be in two places at the same time.

Mr. Kettelkamp also discusses mediums …; psychic photography …; mind over matter …; and concludes with some good advice...

(The entire section is 388 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[Sixth Sense is a] discussion of psychic phenomena and some of the supportive research, of which a small amount is anecdotal, most of the evidence being documented.

All of [the] topics are treated seriously and briefly, and the final pages define levels of consciousness and suggest ways in which the reader can increase the possibility of having psychic experiences. Simply written, a good introduction to a fascinating topic. (p. 138)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (© 1971 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), May, 1971.

[Investigating UFO's takes us once]...

(The entire section is 481 words.)

Sister Mary Etheldreda Smeltzer

[Religions East and West] comes at a time when the study of comparative religions is of the essence. The unusually clear treatment of Eastern Religions will prove interesting and informative to our youth in search of truth. (p. 448)

Sister Mary Etheldreda Smeltzer, in Catholic Library World, February, 1973.

(The entire section is 47 words.)

Denise Murko Wilms

Kettelkamp's journalistic three-part survey of astrology [Astrology: Wisdom of the Stars] offers a broad view of the historical development and present-day status of "the first science."… Part two contains the standard fare of traditional astrology…. Not a how-to manual for would-be forecasters, but rather a nice effort at defining the scope and content of astrology today. (p. 340)

Denise Murko Wilms, in The Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright 1973 by the American Library Association), November 15, 1973.

It should be possible to talk about hypnosis without getting into ESP, but...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

Herbert J. Stolz

[Hypnosis: The Wakeful Sleep,] Kettelkamp's discussion of the history and techniques of hypnosis and its present use in such fields as medicine, psychotherapy, and psychic phenomena research, is scientifically accurate. The text is written in clear, simple language and is a good introduction to a fascinating topic. Included are a few simple, safe experiments for self-hypnosis. Larry Kettelkamp knows how to write good juvenile books. (p. 26)

Herbert J. Stolz, in Appraisal (copyright © 1976 by the Children's Science Book Review Committee), Fall, 1976.

(The entire section is 80 words.)

Zena Sutherland

Kettelkamp's books are always authoritative and objective, and in [A Partnership of Mind and Body: Biofeedback, a] lucid examination of a provocative and still controversial subject, he carefully restricts discussion to recorded scientific research. Each chapter describes research experiments in a different area: the brain, the smooth muscles, the skin, etc. In each case, the text includes theory, testing equipment, experiments, and results; some of the results are merely informative, while others have already been put to practical use by the medical profession…. A stimulating subject; a fine survey. (pp. 76-7)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for...

(The entire section is 110 words.)

Sarah Gagné


Exciting new developments in biofeedback are starting to receive widespread attention, and with advertisements appearing for brain wave machines, children are in need of a book [such as A Partnership of Body and Mind: Biofeedback which explains] the subject…. The chapter on brain waves is the most interesting because of their influence on the state of creativity and "quiet awareness" and because of the resultant implications for mind control. As with other books by Kettelkamp, striking events are presented within the context of the subject rather than for mere sensation. (pp. 78-9)

Saran Gagné, in The Horn Book Magazine...

(The entire section is 109 words.)

Anne C. Rayme

[Investigating Psychics: Five Life Histories] provides an overview of current developments and future directions in the new science of psi or parapsychology plus profiles of five gifted psychics. Results of controlled laboratory experiments are outlined to document the claims of [the five subjects]. The coverage is objective and responsible and includes cautions against laymen attempting dangerous feats in order to explore their psi potential. While not an exhaustive nor conclusive investigation, this easily digestible introduction to psi research won't be a shelf sitter. (p. 130)

Anne C. Rayme, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the March, 1978 issue of...

(The entire section is 111 words.)

E. Virginia Demos

Investigating Psychics—Five Life Histories is clearly written by a believer in parapsychology, whose treatment of the subject cannot be accurately described as an "investigation". The author, Mr. Larry Kettelkamp, starts with a brief introduction to parapsychology and psychic or "psi" effects that is entirely one-sided. He then proceeds to describe the life stories of five self-declared psychics, using only secondary source materials, which he accepts without question. Since he has chosen to write about people who are alive today, and have been to the United States, or live here, it is odd and distressing that Mr. Kettelkamp has made no effort to interview these people personally, or to obtain first hand...

(The entire section is 204 words.)

Montague Ullman

It is apparently the intent [of Kettelkamp in Investigating Psychics] to introduce the younger reader to the field of parapsychology by presenting its stellar performers, the men and women who have become newsworthy in recent years…. Biographical sketches of the psychics are given along with a summary of their most striking achievements. A dramatic picture emerges, based partly on fact but more often on uncritical assessment of claims. The style is largely anecdotal. No sources are given. The accomplishments of these five psychics, regardless of their interest and importance, cannot convey an accurate or balanced picture of the field of parapsychological research. Kettelkamp is more apt to give a somewhat...

(The entire section is 266 words.)

Kathryn Weisman

[The Healings Arts is a] survey of the various approaches to healing the body [and] includes discussions of herbal and nutritional medicine, body rhythms, osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, mental and spiritual healing techniques, as well as discussions of traditional Western medical and surgical techniques. Kettelkamp does not try to promote one method of healing over another; rather he strives to give an unbiased explanation of each and then attempts to show its scientific basis…. [Few of the other survey books available] cover the range of topics that Kettelkamp does here. (pp. 140-41)

Kathryn Weisman, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the March,...

(The entire section is 117 words.)