Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens Critical Essays

Patricia Lauber


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens examines natural phenomena—in this case, trauma to the environment that the author elegantly relates in language for the average juvenile reader. The full impact of this volcanic eruption may not be known for years, but it is significant that geologists, seismologists, paleolimnologists, and other specialists within the scientific community had this opportunity to study the event at first hand. Consequently, Mount St. Helens may prove to be the most substantial outdoor laboratory of the twentieth century. Accurate photographs show the devastation to an area, a community, and the entire Pacific Northwest. In a matter of minutes, 230 square miles of land changed; fifty-seven people were incinerated or buried in avalanches of mud, dirt, and trees; and the economy of a region was altered. More animals and plants than can be counted were extinguished from the earth, and yet much life survived.

In Volcano, Lauber presents the systematic destruction and rebuilding of the mountain. The volcano awakens from its slumber, spitting and smoking, rumbling back to life. Scientists sense the impending signs and come to the mountain en masse. When the largest recorded volcanic explosion in history finally occurs, it produces a “stone wind”—a tremendous, 200-mile-an-hour blast that propels stones, some as big as cars, snaps trees, and flattens all in its path. An avalanche rumbles down the stripped side of Mount St. Helens, striking a ridge that splits it in two; one flow fills Spirit Lake with 180 feet of rock and dirt, while the other...

(The entire section is 660 words.)