Volcano Wakes Up! 


A small volcano gets ready for a big explosion.

From the hungry lava crickets to the irrepressible ferns, everyone has something to say about it!

Playful poems from five alternating viewpoints tell the story of an exciting day — from sunrise to moonrise — on a young, about-to-shout volcano.

Lisa Westberg Peters, ill. by Steve Jenkins, Henry Holt, 2010.
32 pages, ages 4 and up. ISBN 978-0-8050-8287-6

The Story Behind the Story

I was a tourist the first time I visited the Big Island of Hawaii.

But the island’s active volcanoes brought me back over and over for extended stays. I’ve spent many weeks hiking, exploring, taking notes, and shooting photos on Kilauea Volcano. Everything about it fascinates me — the steam coming out of cracks in the ground, the glow of incandescent lava, the feel of black sand that was hot lava just hours earlier. I sat in on university geology classes, hovered over the volcano’s active vent in a helicopter, and felt my first earthquake.

For the story behind Volcano Wakes Up, see Cynthia Leitich Smith’s great blog.


Booklist review:

Peters, a poet whose creative books on earth science include The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain (1988) and Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up (2003), now imagines a day in the life of a volcano and its neighbors. The point of view shifts on each page or double-page spread, as the verse offers different forms and distinctive voices for the scrappy young volcano at the heart of the action, the party-loving ferns in its crevices, lava-flow crickets speaking in text-message phrases, the ever-changing paved road, and the sun and moon observing the scene. In the cut-paper collage illustrations, dramatic composition as well as varied hues and textures create visual interest even in scenes with no living characters. A two-page appended note comments on Hawaiian volcanoes, the ferns springing up in their crevices, the crickets living in cooled lava cracks, the frequently damaged roads, and the sight of lava flows into the ocean as the sun sets and the moon rises. An intriguing classroom read-aloud choice for many voices.

– Carolyn Phelan

Publishers Weekly review

Personified features of a Hawaiian landscape speak in verse during a day in the life of a waking volcano, rendered in Jenkins’s atmospheric trademark cut-paper collages. The poems shift between the volcano, a pair of crickets, ferns, the sun, and a winding mountain road, and Peters lends sly dimensions to each voice: the volcano is a literal firecracker (“I’m the baby…. but when I wake up, watch out!”), and the crickets’ chirps are transmuted into texts (“Hey, bro, I M way back in the cave. I was ZZZZZZ hard, but that nasty smll woke me up”). A humorous, imaginative, and artful concept. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)

Kirkus Reviews

Early one morning, a young volcano wakes up, too sleepy to explode…just yet. But everyone knows the time is coming. The wild ferns unfurl and shake loose. The lava crickets can’t wait for their next meal. And the black road-well, he knows to proceed with caution. Sixteen poems told in alternating viewpoints show a day in the life of this tiny, sizzling spitfire. Like a toddler in a temper tantrum when it finally blows (“Look at me! / I can fling cinders / and ash into the sky. I can / huff and chuff and pour rivers of / lava down my side”), everything around it changes. From clever acrostics to bantering text messages, Peters playfully mixes poetry forms. Add Jenkins’s cottony clouds and molten lava in his signature collage style, and the package makes for one hot topic. It’s a great and apt companion to the poet’s Earthshakes: Poems from the Ground Up, illustrated by Cathie Felstead (2003). Informative endnotes give scientific tidbits, along with Hawaiian pronunciation guides. (further reading) (Poetry/informational picture book. 4-8)