The Best Way to Get Your Way by Vancouver author Tanya Lloyd Kyi is a rousing introduction to the art of debate and offers a crash course in critical thinking.
Pairs of fictional tween speakers face off over the pros and cons of five contentious topics that are close to home: household chores, screen time, veggie consumption, bedtime curfews, and homework. The spirited sample debates follow a clearly labelled and organized formal structure of resolution, opening statements, factual evidence presentations, rebuttals, and closing arguments.
Each lively “word-wrestling match” is an exercise in rhetoric and reasoning, peppered with puns and linguistic zingers (“Mess-free is stress free!” “Eat a carrot. Save the world!”). Any orator worth their salt knows the most convincing contentions rely on solid research. Many intriguing research findings are cited throughout the discourses (“studies show sleep-deprived people can’t appreciate humour as well” and “homework in elementary school has no benefits to learning”). Selected sources are listed in the end notes, along with a glossary, index, and suggestions for further reading.
Chanelle Nibbelink’s quirky, vibrant digital artwork dynamically matches the high energy of the text. Stylized spot illustrations capture youth skateboarding, crafting, and video gaming. Cue-card shaped notes appear throughout offering an analytical recap and helpful coaching tips such as “Ruling with Research,” “Rebut What?” and “The Power of Practice.” Colourful infographics and sidebars explain how to find trustworthy sources of information; the difference between causation and correlation; and how to spot distracting logical fallacies such as argumentum ad hominem (an “argument against the person”) and argumentum ad verecundiam (“a false argument that relies on an authority figure”).
While kids may be disappointed that some of the specific lines of reasoning made by the speakers won’t actually fly – “next time your dad says it’s time to hit the pillow, tell him bedtime is a cultural construct” – this debate primer delivers on its aim to hone argument acumen and sharpen critical skills. There are no clear right or wrong sides, and the reader is the judge in each choose-your-own-verdict style ending.
Rational thinking and the ability to consider other perspectives come in handy every day, not just when sparring at the school assembly podium. Kyi successfully puts forth a winning argument: “If we take the time to debate, to exchange ideas – and most importantly – to listen, we might just expand our minds.”