Into the Volcano (Blue Sky/Scholastic)

volcano-header.jpgInto the Volcano is a good old-fashioned boy’s adventure story which plunges directly into the action and keeps the tension high as the brothers are greeted with one new obstacle after another.


176 pgs., color; $18.99

(W & A: Don Wood)

Okay, kids, how would you react to this situation? You’re sitting in your classroom at school, on a day which began like every other day. Then a message comes that you are to report to the conference room: your father is there to see you. He introduces you to a burly stranger called "Come-and-go" and announces that you’re going to take a 10-day trip to the Hawaiian island of Kocalaha to visit your Aunt Lulu. Your mom is doing research on Borneo, and Dad will soon be off to Norway on some official business, so it’s just you and this somewhat menacing stranger, off to visit a relative you’ve never seen before.

The cover to Into the Volcano by Don Wood.In Don Wood’s graphic novel Into the Volcano, the brothers Sumo and Duffy Pugg receive just such a summons, and have opposite reactions. Duffy’s all for it, thinking of tropical beaches and no school, while for Sumo the idea is anxiety-provoking in the extreme: his initial objections involve shark attacks, tidal waves and hostile natives, but the real truth is that he’s afraid of anything unfamiliar. Most of us can identify with one of the brothers, because they represent two common and opposing approaches to life: some people place a high value on control and always knowing what’s going to happen next, while for others not knowing is what makes life interesting.

Everyone who is a kid, or has ever been a kid, can also sympathize with the fact that Duffy and Sumo’s opinions are beside the point: their father says they’re going to Kocalaha and that’s how it’s going to be. The mysteries continue: they are flown to Hawaii as the only passengers on a plane outfitted like a hotel suite, their driver Mango Jo tells them he’s in the witness protection program, and their supposedly rich Aunt Lulu lives in a rotting trailer.

Before they know it, Sumo and Duffy are packed off on an expedition which takes them literally into an erupting volcano. As if the natural dangers were not enough, they soon start to have doubts about their travel companions, the purpose of the expedition, and why they have been brought along. It doesn’t help when Mango Jo tells them it’s a fishing trip and they are the bait. Completely separated from the world they knew a few days ago, Duffy and Sumo must draw on their inner resources and work together in order to survive.

Into the Volcano is a good old-fashioned boy’s adventure story which plunges directly into the action and keeps the tension high as the brothers are greeted with one new obstacle after another. Wood doesn’t stint on psychological development either: the boys are forced to confront their fears and outgrow their habitual attitudes towards life, and each other. And it does get scary: at one point the lava turns into a million grinning skulls, and Sumo is confronted by Death in the form of a mocking skeleton who tells him "I’ve seen a lot of people in this same predicament…and they all have one thing in common…They’re DEAD!"

Wood uses the large format of Into the Volcano (8.6" x 11") to present some truly spectacular art, which graphically conveys the excitement and peril of the boys’ journey. His basic approach to storytelling is straightforward and cinematic, with shifting points of view and regular use of establishing shots and close-ups, while also using color and shape expressively and regularly breaking the frame with the effect of heightening the sense of action and danger. The depiction of volcanic features is particularly good, and is based on direct observation: Wood lives in an off-grid house in Hawaii and is an avid hiker, diver and explorer of volcanoes. All the art was produced on a computer, using a 12" by 18" Wacom Graphic Art Tablet with Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter.

Further information, including a comic which explains the background of the novel, is available from the Volcano is recommended for ages 7 and up. | Sarah Boslaugh


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