Gregory Mackay, Anders and the Volcano, Allen & Unwin, July 2016, 176pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760290030
If you’re looking to explore and have fun with friends what better place to camp than at the base of an extinct volcano! Anders is so excited to be going on holidays with his friends Bernie and Eden. It is even better when they meet Veronica who has a grasshopper of her own to fly.
Anders and the Volcano is an enjoyable graphic novel that follows four friends on an entertaining adventure. With a mix of interesting volcano facts, funny miscommunications (What’s ‘whump’ you say? It’s a partial art according to Anders!) and heartfelt speeches from a dad trying to ease his son’s homesickness, this graphic novel has a little bit of everything. Which is also true in the characterisation of the four protagonists. Anders enjoys adventure; Bernie is quite anxious; Eden is an autonomous girl who is equally comfortable on her own as part of a group and Veronica is the thrill-seeking newcomer. With such an eclectic group all young readers have a character to whom they can relate.
It is easy to see the potential for Anders and the Volcano as a valuable addition to the classroom library. The reluctant reader has a novel sized book to enjoy with engaging text and cleverly simple graphics. The content itself can easily be linked to the Earth and Beyond: Changes to the Earth (Natural Disasters) primary school unit and I can just see student sketch books filled with little Anders and Bernies.
The one criticism I have is that obvious themes go unexplored, such as problem solving in friendships. With Anders being the only one of his friends to have experienced flying before Veronica is introduced, Bernie and Eden are often left behind when he explores the skies. While this provides the opportunity for Bernie and Eden to meet their own flying companions, it is also a chance to study an issue that is ever so important to children, being, or feeling, left out.
I recommend Anders and the Volcano to young lovers of graphic novels and parents and teachers who want to tempt the reluctant reader into the world of books.
Reviewed by Katie Mineeff