Review of Climbing the Volcano: A Journey in Haiku

Climbing the Volcano: A Journey in Haiku Climbing the Volcano: A Journey in Haiku
by Curtis Manley; illus. by Jennifer K. Mann
Primary    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.
1/24    9780823451661    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823457458    $11.99

Manley offers a child’s point of view of a day-long hike up a mountain (identified in the back matter as the South Sister in Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range). Each stage of the hike is described in a rich, telegraphic three-line haiku poem, beginning with a blazing sunrise. Readers follow along as the child swats away mosquitoes, passes a rushing stream, trudges through the snow, munches trail mix, reaches the summit, and heads back down and to the campsite for bedtime: “trying to sleep— / what mountain will I climb / next?” The economy of words in the haiku form fits the way a child might think and particularly seems to suit the exercise of describing a demanding hike while actually in the midst of one. Mann’s mixed-media illustrations work perfectly in tandem with the haiku narration, alternating perspectives—featuring the landscape and the views, or the child’s close observations, or the family on the move. Her cartoonlike characters pop against the natural setting, especially the child protagonist in an orange hoodie and green pants. Back matter includes information about the history and geology of the region, hiking tips, a visual index, a list of resources, and a note about haiku form, which debunks the idea that English-language haiku must follow a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sylvia Vardell

Sylvia Vardell is a professor in the School of Library & Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and author of Children’s Literature in Action, Poetry Aloud Here, A World Full of Poems and the Poetry for Children blog.

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