Monday, February 10, 2014

Into the Volcano

Into the Volcano is an interesting read. An adventure story that has elements of family drama, mysterious disappearances, a quest for the unknown, beautiful artwork, extensive information about volcanoes and plate techtonics, as well as an exotic setting, it tells the tale of two brothers, Duffy and Sumo sent by their father to spend time with their relatives in Kocalaha, a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean. Duffy is older, more adventurous, and athletic. Sumo is younger, whiny, and somewhat useless and annoying.
Sumo is a wee bit defiant.
The brothers squabble and try to get to know their unusual relatives when they are taken off on a quest for unknown reasons. This quest puts them in real danger and over time they learn that they are being used as pawns in a struggle for wealth and power.
Over the course of the story, we also learn revelations about the boys' family, their mother's secret work, and the mystery of why they are on such a perilous journey. The narrative gets pretty complicated, with apparent allies turning out to be adversaries and some prickly characters becoming more sympathetic. Even Sumo goes through some maturation because of this ordeal, and his obstinate attitude and distrust eventually comes in handy. I even got close to liking the little brat by the book's conclusion.

Don Wood wrote and drew this book. He won a Caldecott Honor for the illustrations in his and his wife's book King Bidgood's in the Bathtub. His artwork is meticulous and impactful, combining elements reminiscent of Maurice Sendak and Richard Corben, two visual grandmasters. This is his first stab at a graphic novel, and sometimes I had a little bit of difficulty sussing out his visual storytelling, but in the end I found his style very attractive and evocative. Wood speaks more about creating Into the Volcano in this interview.

This book has been praised and was named a 2009 American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Publishers Weekly called it "a visual stunner" full of "excellent adventure." Reading Rants gushed, "I have never seen anything quite like Don Wood’s Into the Volcano." The School Library Journal's Elizabeth Bird praised the art and summed up, "I’ve never seen a graphic novel written with a child audience in mind that was as out-and-out beautiful and gripping as this puppy here."

Into the Volcano was published by Scholastic, who provide a number of teaching resources and reviews here. There is a sizable preview available here from Amazon.

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