By Terry Catasus Jennings, Illustrated by Laurie O’Keefe
Sylvan Dell Publishing, $9.95, 32 pages
When a volcano erupts, how do the animal and plant life survive the devastation? How can a mountain ecosystem recover? In Terry Catasus Jennings’ Gopher to the Rescue!: A Volcano Recovery Story, the animals are shocked when a volcano explodes, destroying their natural habitat. Because of his natural instincts, Gopher survives by burrowing underground, storing food and keeping safe. But little does he know that when he burrows, he mixes the good earth in with the ash on the surface, giving the mountain a chance to support life again. It is a process that takes decades, and the book does an excellent job of describing the first few weeks post-eruption. Laurie O’Keefe’s illustrations scientifically depict the mountain’s return to life. Her inspirational drawings show how nature revives an ecosystem after a disaster. The recommended audience is children ages 4-9. But because of the scientific theme and a few pages that show the actual blast (scared animals running in the falling ash) and the aftermath (bodies of dead animals), this book is for older readers. In the “For Creative Minds” section, four pages of learning activities challenge independent readers and students in the classroom. Learn about how volcano formation, tectonic plates, how natural disasters change habitats and pressure and melting.