First Graphics: Volcanoes! Earthquakes!

VolcanoesThese are the most boring nonfiction presentations I have ever seen outside of textbooks. Volcanoes and earthquakes are exciting, terrifying, amazing natural disasters that consistently fascinate kids. Who could resist the idea of a mountain exploding and spewing out molten lava or the earth itself buckling and twisting? Well, clearly the scientist on page 19 of Volcanoes! who says, with a completely expressionless face, “The eruption is beginning.” A generic mountain belching clouds of smoke backs him up, as does the caption below the picture “These clues help scientists warn people.” In Earthquakes!, a stableboy gets a little more excited when the building shakes and the window explodes. He says, “Whoa!” although it’s not clear if he’s talking to the horse or an incoming tidal wave, since he’s looking out of the picture at something the reader can’t see.

The text is bland, plodding, and contains errors. Specifically, a typo in Volcanoes! on page 7 and a weird sentence construction in Earthquakes! on page 8. Each book has the same format, beginning with an explanation of what causes the phenomena, the event itself, and a final section on staying safe. The back matter includes a glossary, additional reading, and a link to the publisher’s website with further information.

The art is competent and illustrates the various elements and concepts clearly, but it’s just as lackluster as the text. Square panels are planted firmly in an expanse of white borders and each panel has a caption. There are only one or two speech bubbles in each book. The palette leans heavily toward cool blues and greens and the images are clearly outlined but without much fine detail. Overall, the art feels very static.

These are appropriate for the grade level and the art and text are clear and readable, presenting a number of scientific facts for young children. Beginning readers who like books heavy on facts and want a graphic novel format will probably be willing to read these titles. But why pay $20 for these textbook-type readers when you can buy a National Geographic nonfiction easy reader for half the price with stunning photos and well-written, interesting text that’s also appropriate for beginning readers? A school library might find these a necessary purchase to support curriculum and reading levels, but there’s no need for a public library to purchase them with so many more excellent and interesting books on the topic available.

First Graphics: Volcanoes!
ISBN: 9781429676069
First Graphics: Earthquakes!
ISBN: 9781429676052

by Renee Gray-Wilburn
Art by Aleksandar Sotirovski
Capstone, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: RL K-3 (reading level kindergarten to third grade)