Into the Volcano by Don Wood (Scholastic/Blue Sky Press, 2008) is taller and wider than the usual graphic novel, allowing plenty of room for the eye-bugging subject matter – a boatful of obsessed people, including two young brothers, who head straight into and underneath an erupting volcano! That Don Wood lives in Hawaii and has intimate knowledge of volcanoes, erupting and otherwise, is clear. His artwork is visceral and detailed, allowing me to imagine in more detail than comfortable exactly what it would be like to be faced with glopping molten lava, earthquake-ridden lava tubes, and huge killer waves – all at the same time.
Oh, and the story is fairly awesome, too. Not the main plotline about the mystery of the strange little settlement underneath the volcano and why a bunch of otherwise normal-seeming people (well, maybe not SO normal-seeming) launch themselves into what might with huge understatement be called a risky situation – frankly, I remained a bit foggy and unconvinced by all that. No, I liked the story of how one of the brothers, Sumo, transforms himself by sheer will and desperation from a whiny, awful little boy into someone with guts and pride.
This is an intense adventure story that will suck readers right in, but it’s also a story about reaching the very brink of your own endurance and then going beyond it because to do otherwise isn’t a choice you can live with.
Highly recommended for grades 2 and up (including adults!).