Volcano Rising book cover image

Volcano Rising

  • 1795

By: Elizabeth Rusch / Illustrated by: Susan Swan

Watch eight volcanoes GURGLE, SPURT, and SCRAPE as they get down to the business of building.

Volcanoes are a scary, catastrophic phenomenon that creates mass destruction as far as its deadly lava can reach, right? Not quite . . .

Elizabeth Rusch explores volcanoes in their entirety, explaining how they’re not all as bad as they’re made out to be. Using examples of real volcanoes from around the world, Rusch explains how some volcanoes create new land, mountains, and islands where none existed before, and how the ash helps farmers fertilize their fields. Simple, straight-forward prose provides readers with the basics, while a secondary layer of text delves deeper into the science of volcanoes. Susan Swan’s bright and explosive mixed-media illustrations perfectly complement the subject matter—they depict volcanoes in all their destructive and creative glory.

Complete with a glossary and list of further resources, Volcano Rising is a unique look at a fierce, yet valuable, scientific process.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Elizabeth Rusch, author

Elizabeth Rusch is an award-winning children's book author and magazine writer with a strong interest in volcanoes. She writes both fiction and nonfiction in the areas of science, art, sports, waves, jokes, crayons, and mud — anything that catches her fancy.

Read more about Elizabeth.

Susan Swan, illustrator

Susan Swan has illustrated many children's books, including A Monarch Butterfly's Journey, and It's Fall. She lives in Ovilla, Texas.

Read more about Susan.

Awards & Honors:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Reading is Fundamental's STEAM Multicultural Booklist
  • New York Public Library Children's Books 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Blowing their tops off, growing taller and wider, and forming new mountains and islands, volcanoes can be both destructive and creative. Extraordinary illustrations complement this description of eight extraordinary Earth events.

A dual-level narrative provides both a simple explanation of how volcanoes work and longer paragraphs that go into greater depth. Rusch offers as examples eight volcanoes from around the world. From barely perceptible swellings of the land in central Oregon to a whole new island in Iceland and the vast caldera left by explosions in the Yellowstone area, the variety of volcanic activities may surprise readers. The text is set on gorgeous full-bleed images, sometimes realistic and sometimes allusive. Swan has digitally manipulated collages of found objects, textures and hand-painted papers, putting them together in ways that suggest the varied scenery of her examples. Palm trees, puffins and people give depth to vast landscapes. The colors are particularly striking: jade and turquoise waters, red and orange magma and hot lava, shades of gray and brown for the ash. In her read-aloud text, Rusch makes plentiful use of onomatopoetic words: "Pow!" "Hisssss!" "Gurgle," "Tssss." The fuller explanations introduce, define and, when necessary, offer a suggested pronunciation for more technical words: pahoehoe (a kind of cooled lava surface), tephra, lava bombs.

A clever and appealing introduction to a remarkable natural phenomenon.


In Rusch's third book on volcanoes, she is joined by Swan, and the two have created an eye-popping riot of action, sound, color, and information to convey the energy and impact of volcanoes. Portions of the text are written for younger readers, while the more detailed, thorough explanatory passages (in a slightly smaller font) are approachable for older readers or through adult assistance. Rusch describes both "creative" and "destructive" volcanoes, but spends more time explaining the creative ones and their environments. Swan's provocative found-objects-meet-digital-painting art is a wild, invigorating explosion (so to speak) of lines and colors. But it's not overwhelming; the labels of the lava, magma, and varied strata of volcanoes expand the understanding. A smart and visceral introduction to the topic--and the pronunciation help within the text is nice, too.

NSTA Recommends

Lava isn’t just lava. It can be spiky chunks called a’a or smooth, ropey surfaces called pahoehoe. Magma can also burst out in chunks called tephra which comes as ash, pumice, or lava bombs. Creative eruptions occur three times more often than violent ones.

Eight specific volcanoes are highlighted as new mountains are built, new lands are created, and islands sprout up. Robots are used to view underwater volcanoes in detail. Parallel information is provided throughout the book. Two to five sentences providing basic information are given at the top of the page while the bottom has more specific and deeper explanations of the concepts. The top part could easily be read by children in the lower elementary grades, while the bottom could be information for parents or teachers to enhance the learning.

Thirty volcano vocabulary words are defined at the back of the book along with a selected bibliography. However, the most recent book or article cited was from 2010. Websites are included, but are undated. This was a concern. There are no photos in the book. All are illustrations "created by manipulating found objects, hand painted papers, and scans of objects and textures in Adobe Photoshop to create new patterns, adding digital paintings, and collaging the two together." I understand the need for illustrations, but I was disappointed there were no actual photos of the real volcanoes. I believe it would have enhanced the dynamics of the book. The information presented is wonderful and I recommend the book.

School Library Journal

Rusch offers a twin-sided look at the power of volcanoes--their capability for destruction, and, surprisingly, of creation. Her informative text continues the split in personality with, on one side, an easy sentence or two dramatically describing eruptions with a heavily accented "POW!" or "SPURT." On the other is a longer, more complex paragraph giving further data for older readers or for teachers and homeschooling parents. Included are such topics as the Yellowstone supervolcano, the emergence of undersea volcanoes, and the creation of Paricutín in a Mexican cornfield. All of this information is placed on a backdrop of Swan's dramatic artwork, a combination of hand-painted papers, digital paintings, and Photoshop scans that include a puffin taking off from the sea near Surtsey and Kilauea's pahoehoe lava flowing violently into the cold Pacific waters. Pair this book with Lisa Westberg Peters's Volcano Wakes Up! (Holt, 2010) for a lava-full celebration of vulcanology.

The Horn Book Magazine

Rusch introduces readers to a variety of volcanoes, volcanic eruption mechanisms, and the scientific terminology used to describe them. The book opens with an impressive explosive eruption--a magnificent mixed-media illustration shows a volcanic vent gushing steam, rock, and lava. The author then directly confronts a common misconception: "Volcanoes are not just destructive. Much more often, volcanoes are creative." Profiles of eight historical and currently active volcanoes around the world illustrate how volcanic eruptions create new land, islands, and mountains. Each spread includes one sentence in large type that provides general information (sometimes including catchy, volcano-like onomatopoeia: "KABAM-BAM-BOOM!"). Smaller-type paragraphs below both employ scientific vocabulary (some of these words are just as much fun to pronounce) and provide detailed background on the science and societal impacts of volcanic activity.


Download the Cover


ISBN: 978-1-58089-408-1

ISBN: 978-1-58089-409-8

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-616-6
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 32
11 x 8 1/2

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
Out on the Prairie
Faces of the Moon