When used in the right way, a unique setting can take an adventure tale to the next level. The magnificently rendered volcano in this, Don Wood’s first graphic novel, does just that. It provides the perfect backdrop for a tale of mystery, suspense, and good old fashioned life-risking. At times thrilling, at times challenging, engrossing to the core, “Into the Volcano” will go down as a standout book of aught eight.
The story begins abruptly. Brothers – the confident Duffy and the cautious Sumo – are taken out of school and sent to stay with their Aunt on the island of Kocalaha. Once there, the outrageously disgusting Aunt Lulu begins planning a mysterious expedition to nearby volcanic islands. All this time, the reader is left to figure out the intentions of Aunt Lulu and her crew of associates (including surfer Paulina, shady Mango Joe, and Duffy and Sumo’s giant of a cousin, Come-And-Go). When the expedition begins, the amount of risk-taking makes it clear that something big (see: valuable) is at stake. The group enters the volcano by sea and plunges into the ancient, rumbling lava tubes in search of this mystery treasure. Sumo and Duffy, fearing for their safety, make a daring escape from the rest of their team. The brothers make a discovery of their own, but are left with the problem of safely getting out of an erupting volcano.
The characters of “Into the Volcano” challenge the reader. Sumo and Duffy are kids with flaws. They aren’t always nice to each other. They can be selfish. It’s a realistic depiction that is uncommon in children’s lit. Both change over the course of the story, but readers will not be instantly won over.
Mr. Wood’s digital illustrations are consistently remarkable. A note for burgeoning illustrators: digital illustrations are a very nice match for water and lava. The scenery here looks fantastic. Well placed perspective changes add drama at every turn. The sequence where the team tries to make their way, by boat, underneath the erupting volcano is as thrilling a moment as I’ve seen in a book for children – or any book for that matter.
Not to sound unprofessional, but everything about “Into the Volcano” screams “this book is going to be awesome”. The size (which is like a picture book only thicker), the dramatic cover art on top of a black dust jacket, and the adventurous title will draw young readers in droves. I’m glad this is the case, because the story is up to the challenge. A highly recommended addition to your graphic novel collection.
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