Into the Volcano


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Into the Volcano


  • Words: Don Wood
  • Art: Don Wood
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Don Wood
  • Story Title: Into the Volcano
  • Publisher: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, Inc.
  • Price: $18.99

Two brothers are taken on a journey inside an active volcano to seek the fiery mountain’s secrets in this graphic novel from illustrator Don Wood.

With their scientist parents on separate expeditions, the Pugg brothers—Sumo and Duffy—are placed in the care of their mother’s family on a remote Hawaiian island. These unsavory characters soon sweep the boys off on a bizarre journey into the island’s erupting volcano. Their goal remains mysterious but the brothers become convinced that their mother is lost somewhere in the twisting underground lava tubes and the duo set out on their own to find her. The boys must rely on their wits and on each other to survive amid earthquakes, lava flows, sheer drops, and other perils of the "Lady of Kocalaha."

Into the Volcano is the first graphic novel from book illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner Don Wood. Wood has been taken with the narrative and emotional power of the graphic novel format and labored for five years to create this book. It’s an impressive achievement. The artwork in Into the Volcano (created entirely on the computer with a Wacom Graphic Art Tablet) has a very dramatic and cinematic feel. As the characters struggle against rocking waves, shifting currents, and waterfalls of lava or navigate their way through the bowels of the mountain and all its frightening wonders, one can almost envision how these scenes would look on a movie screen.

Wood frequently plays with the lighting and color scheme to immerse the reader in the otherworldly environment within the volcano. His depictions of the flowing lava and tunnels of dried magma stone are at times breathtaking. He also takes advantage of the visual format’s potential for metaphor, as in the transformation of rocks into leering skulls and a creepy clown-nosed incarnation of Death when Sumo believes his brother has fallen to his demise. As a result of these techniques, the book engenders powerful emotion and a sense of rousing adventure.

The story is not flawless though by any means. At times the dialogue feels a bit awkward with a sparing use of contractions that gives it a childish sound. As this is a book about children and ostensibly written for children, that is to be excused somewhat, though as an older reader, I found it difficult to get into at first. Once the characters enter the volcano itself, the story is much more captivating and this becomes less of an issue. Wood’s obvious love for the science of volcanoes and for island life is infectious and the book is at times an educational and fascinating read.

Into the Volcano is unlike any graphic novel I’ve read, a snapshot of a subterranean world most of us never knew existed. Its eerie visuals make it worth the read for children and families interested in learning more about that world or just looking for a good adventure tale.

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