Godkin, Celia – When the Giant Stirred, Legend of a Volcanic Island – Book Review

Click here to buy When the Giant Stirred, Legend of a Volcanic Island

This is a nonfiction children’s picture book suited for grades three and up. It is the story of a tropical island where peaceful villagers live in harmony with nature and each other. When the volcano, the villagers call the giant, growls they toss garlands of flowers into the crater. One day this does not calm the threatening rumbles. When the birds leave the island, the chief tells his people they must also leave. They pack everything into small boats and move to another island. The volcano erupts spectacularly. Its power even reaches their new home but the people know they must seek high ground for safety.

Little by little, life returns to the newly shaped island.

I wondered why the book said legend when it felt so much like history. Additional information for older readers is included inside the front and back covers explaining the life cycles of volcanoes and their effects on Pacific Island people.

This is a compelling story which explains the geographical feature through the eyes of the most vulnerable people. The writing is clear, vivid, and at times even poetic “On the island there was a cool, blue Lagoon, many silvery fish swam in an underwater garden of strange and wondrous animals.”

What a superb way for children to learn about the behaviour and affect of a volcano. The picture book section will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The additional information provides facts and statistics the scientifically minded will find fascinating.

Celia Godkin illustrates her own work. As with her beautiful illustrations in Wolf Island and Ladybug Garden, the oil paintings glow with life. As the giant sea turtles make their way up the sand, we can imagine the sound of the rustling palm trees and the shifts of the ocean waves meeting the shore. The  intense orange red of the fleeing parrots repeats in the flames of the volcanic blast and then reappears at the end with the returning parrots many years later. I love the way Godkin devotes an entire spread, without words, to the vividly exploding volcano, the star of the story. Another amazing book by Celia Godkin.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


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