Review: Into the Volcano
Here’s what you need to know about Don Wood’s graphic novel, Into the Volcano: it’s really, really good. The action is really good, the adventure is really good, the characters are really good, and the ending is really good. There is even a lot of comic book swearing (of the @#$% variety), and for many of the readers this book is aimed at, that alone makes this book worth reading.
Into the Volcano
By Don Wood
When brothers Duffy and Sumo are offered the chance to stay with their mother’s family in the tropical island kingdom of Kocalaha, Sumo isn’t quite sure it’s a good idea. Sumo isn’t a big fan of hiking, climbing, swimming in the ocean, spiders, family he has never met before, or sleeping without a night light, so this surprise visit to paradise is like a nightmare come true for him. Naturally, Duffy takes every opportunity tease his brother for his timidity and whining. It isn’t until the two boys are forced to participate in what is supposed to be scientific expedition into the lava tubes of an active volcano, that Duffy accepts the fact that Sumo was right all along; their relatives are up to no good. As the boys race to escape from the tubes, Duffy is badly injured and Sumo must overcome his fears in order to save him before the volcano blows and their exit fills with lava.
Wood’s art style is perfect for a story that needs as much life and excitement as this one does. Using heavy blacks instead of lighter, more delicate outlines, and using color instead of inks to accentuate and highlight, the boys look more pouty, the adults more menacing, and the hot running lava seems to glow on the page. Into the Volcano is a coming of age story, as well as an adventure, much like Hatchet and the books by Will Hobbs. This is Sumo’s story, with Duffy acting as his foil, and author Wood doesn’t pull any punches. The adults in the story have little patience for whiny kids and they don’t cut Sumo any slack when he fails to rise to the occasion. The adult characters are often snide, cranky, and unsympathetic, including the boys’ parents, who, like many parents, are shown putting their work before family. Every kid, either through personal experience or by watching a friend’s experience, will recognize these portrayals as true and believable. Kids will also recognize themselves in Sumo as he fights his personal demons in his effort to find the strength to save his always-stronger, always-better brother.
Adult readers will wonder what the heck the boys’ father was thinking when he sent the boys off with relatives they’d never met. And adults will marvel that the boys’ mother would put her research before the safety and well being of her sons. And adults will scoff that the bad guys thought they’d get away with such a flimsy plan. Kids, on the other hand, may wonder about all that stuff, too, but they won’t worry about it too much. Kids know that adults do stuff that defies logic all the time – they’re used to rolling with the nonsense adults dream up, and they’ll roll with this story, too. Highly recommended.
About Eva Volin
Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.
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