Critical Context

Patricia Lauber loves science, and this book continued her role as a writer of instructional, descriptive books for young readers. Early in her career, Lauber wrote for Scholastic Magazine, the science foundation for many children, and held staff positions with Science World, The New Book of Knowledge, and Scientific American Illustrated Library. The nature subjects that she has covered include earthworms, penguins and other birds, glaciers and rivers, dogs, bats, and mice. She also documents nations, their peoples, their scientists, and their natural backyards.

Volcano, lauded by the critics, documents this most significant geological event in a manner that all readers will comprehend. The miraculous power of the volcano, the irony of nature’s destructive force wiping the slate clean so that new life can begin, the detailed scientific explanations, and the vivid color photographs to augment the well-written text—all these qualities make this a required factual text for any child’s library. Volcano was named a Newbery Honor Book and received the Horn Book Fanfare Book Award and a New York Academy of Sciences Honorable Mention.

The author trusts a story line to carry the message of her science books—linking events, discoveries, and learning as part of the experience. Lauber has written several books with related themes that will assist the young reader to comprehend the immensity of a volcanic eruption and the ever-changing force of the planet. All About the Ice Age (1959), followed by All About the Planets (1960) and Icebergs and Glaciers (1961), start the student on a learning tour of geology. Her 1965 book entitled Volcanoes, in the Junior Science Book series, is certainly a precursor to this 1986 book. Lauber documents another significant earth event in Summer of Fire: Yellowstone 1988 (1991).

Lauber studied a photograph of a hardy green plant pushing its way through a crusty crack in Mount St. Helen’s surface. Fascinated, she began to compose this book. She knew her mission—to explain this phenomenon in a way that young readers could understand and in order to awaken their curiosity—and she accomplished it.