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Volcanoes: Fire and Life

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Volcanoes: Fire and Life
Volume 3 in the Science Comics Series
By Jon Chad
With color by Sophie Goldstein
First Second Books: New York, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62672-360-3

Reviewed by Boris Segel - December 9, 2016

The time: The Near Future.
Conditions on Earth: The Earth is a frozen wasteland.
Common childhood activities: Searching for things to burn for heat.
Future prospects for humankind: Dim....

Aurora and her classmates are fuel mappers. They trudge around the frozen wasteland looking for items that can be burned for heat. They map these items so that other crews can come back and gather up the items and take them back to where Aurora's tribe lives, so that they can be burnt for heat. The world that Aurora lives in is one that is dominated by ice and snow. The earth has been this way for so long that no one seems to remember what happened to cause the earth to turn cold. Nor does anyone know how to alter the climate so that conditions would be more habitable for the remaining humans.

All this changes when Aurora comes across an old book about volcanoes and learns about how the geothermal energy that volcanoes contain might be used to not only provide heat for the tribe but also to rewarm the Earth. Will her elders make use of this re-found knowledge, or will they bury it along with the past? You'll have to read Volcanoes - Fire and Life one of the books in the Science Comics.

Yes, you read that right.  Volcanoes - Fire and Life is a comic. It is sort of a cross between a traditional comic book and a graphic novel, and it was written primarily for preteens. In this book, readers not only get to follow the adventures of Aurora and her classmates, but they also get to learn a great deal about volcanoes as Aurora tries to educate the other members of her tribe about volcanoes. Along the way she describes the role that volcanoes play in climate change, as well as the constituent parts of volcanoes such as the different types of magma, lava, how and why volcanoes erupt, various types of volcanoes, such as shield and composite volcanoes, and the like. Readers also learn a bit about plate tectonics, and such nifty topics as how and why rocks can and do melt.

A great deal of information about volcanoes is packed into this book. Significantly, the information is presented in such a way that readers will not be aware that they are actually LEARNING some SCIENCE. As far as the reader is concerned, they are simply enjoying a good story. They might not understand why, after reading this book, that they suddenly have an urge to learn more about volcanoes... In addition, students that are already interested in science, and especially geology, will simply devour this book!

The book itself is printed in a traditional book format (i.e., compared to the magazine type style of a traditional comic book). The paperback version of the book runs around 120 pages, and the interior format is a mix between comic book style boxes combined with half and full page elements, which are used when the story line demands more space. The book is filled with frenetic and colorful illustrations that feature a lot of reds and green. This color choice gives the illustrations a sort of haunting feel, yet at the same time, an energetic feel as well.

Although this book is rated for grades 5-8, I think that many children on either side of these grades will find this book both fun to read, and highly educational. Combining a science subplot into a comic book style story is an imaginative and delightfully sneaky way of getting kids interested in science while also encouraging them to read! Currently some of the other books in this series delve into dinosaurs, bats, and coral reefs, and it is my understanding that several new titles are in the works. Most important, the 'science' information used in these books has been verified, and approved by scientist in the respective fields. A glossary and an age appropriate bibliography is also included.

The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, 2e, editor-in-chief Haraldur Sigurdsson.
A comprehensive and up-to-date reference book on volcanism that contains 78 articles by experts from around the world, covering topics ranging from the history of volcanology to extraterrestrial volcanism.

Magnetic Magic, by Terry Catasús Jennings.
A 32-page picture book that teaches young children about magnetism, magnets, the north magnetic pole, how a compass works, and so, so much more!

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