Possibly the only full-on science book in the Newbery canon so far (I haven’t read Man and Microbes yet, so I’m not sure if that’s mostly history or mostly science – but that’s the only other science nonfiction candidate) this is a fascinating look at the Mount St. Helens eruption and its aftermath. Clear and concise, it explains how and why volcanoes erupt, and then goes beyond that to detail what happened after the eruptions, with the return of life to the mountainside. I hadn’t been expecting that aspect of the book, despite the subtitle about healing. It wasn’t just about how the mountain healed, it also went in depth into chains of life, and how many different plants and animals were tightly woven together in mutual dependence.
I’m only giving the book three stars because when push comes to shove, I didn’t love this book. It’s hard to really LOVE a straight science nonfiction title. That doesn’t make it a bad book, it just means that unlike many of the other Newbery books, where I was immediately thinking of who I’d recommend it to, this one I’m not sure I’m dying to share it right away. To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what makes this particular nonfiction book more distinguished than other similar titles. I do agree that the organizational flow was very well done, the pacing was stellar, and the presentation of the information perfectly tuned to the target audience’s experience and understanding. But I have seen other nonfiction titles that I thought did a similarly excellent job with their subjects that did not get honored. Perhaps this year’s committee was simply more open-minded?