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Great Escapes: Mount St. Helens 1980: Fiery Eruption! Review by Amanda Hopkins

Gare Thompson
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
250 Wireless Blvd
Hauppauge NY, 11788

Sometimes the best way to bring our history to life is to live it. But when you want to make it come to life for children, the living it part can be harder. Gare Thompson brought to life the Mount St Helens eruption for my 9-year-old when he wrote Great Escapes Mount St. Helens 1980: Fiery Eruptions.

In Great Escapes Mount St. Helens 1980, we follow two 13-year-olds, Alex and Wendy, as they face the mean face of the active Mount St. Helens in the 1980s. While we are following 13-year-olds, I feel the book was written for a younger age group. My 9-year-old was able to easily read this book, and loved it…although, at last check he had a 6th grade reading level. I would recommend the upper elementary to lower middle school ages for this book.

Alex loves the outdoors, and he loves Smokey (Mount St. Helens). He loves spending time drawing “her” from all angles. His best friend Wendy is all about the facts. She doesn’t care about the fun, rather she wants to know the facts of it all. Alex loves Mount St. Helens for her beauty, Wendy loves Mount St. Helens for the facts that she is an active volcano.

Throughout the story, we follow these two as they learn more and more about the St. Helens. Alex learns from Michael, and “old-timer” on the mountain who loves the old fables. He learns to love all that she has to offer, along with the rest of nature. Wendy, being the facts girl that she is, only wants to know the facts and really wants to be right about the active volcano being ready to erupt.

We travel many times to Mount St. Helens with these two kids, and from a kids viewpoint, we see the changes of the mountain. We see clues as to what will eventually happen. While the kids don’t know it, we do, but we are still on edge as to “when” it is going to happen.

When signs of an eruption finally started to show, the kids kept climbing the mountain one for pictures and the other to draw. They did this, until it was too late. We now find ourselves following the kids on their journey to get off the mountain before it is too late. Not only that, but they have to get to Michael. He refused to leave until the mountain blew “her” top, and now they must get to him before it is too late!

I love the way this book is written. How it is geared towards the kids. While giving the information needed, it also adds in the adventure that kids want and love. My son loved reading the adventure and came to me to tell me all about it. He was impressed about all that Alex and Wendy went through. Telling me what he would have done different. What I loved most was that he was living in the story and felt that he could change what was happening.

As an added bonus, at the end of the book, you can find some quick facts about Mount St Helens and even a quick quiz to see what you remember about what you read. This was a great way to work on our comprehension while still enjoying a great book!

If you are looking for a history book that is written towards your kids. One that makes your kids feel like they are living the adventure. One they don’t want to put down, you will want to get this book in your house! This is a book that not only did my son enjoy, but I enjoyed reading as well. It is one that will be read repeatedly, and when his sister is old enough, she will be reading it also!

—Product review by Amanda Hopkins, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2017