VOLCANO BOOK FOR KIDS
“Volcanoes and tsunamis and pirates, oh my!”
— ELENA, AGE 11
Veronica is a perfectly ordinary girl, except for one very important thing—she lives on a volcano! Join Veronica on her search for pearls in the black sands on the far side of the biggest volcano of all ... Mount Mystery.
Veronica sets off in the “lava car” with her best friend, Maddy, and their dads. Together, they must cross Magma Pass, hike through the Cinnamon Forest, and brave the poisonous Yellow Lake to get to the base of Mount Mystery, where the true test begins.
The base of Mount Mystery is a moonscape pocked with craters the size of school buses. Here the earth pulses with power: geysers steam, mud pots boil, and stones smoke like ghosts in the spectral fog. Yet they press on through the war-zone landscape to the summit, where they are faced with an impossible choice: of life and death, of bad and worse.
Veronica makes her decision, and the world falls into darkness. Yet amid total despair and with the help of her family and friends, she discovers a map that can change the world, if only someone didn’t stand in her way—the man in white!
Join Veronica on this epic, middle-grade adventure of eruption, pirates, and volcanic winter. Includes dozens of the most beautiful volcanic illustrations in print today. Perfect for volcano lovers of all ages and especially girls ages 9 to 12.
In another lifetime, in a land of lava and love, there lived a young girl named Veronica.
Veronica had brown hair and beautiful hazel eyes. She wore a strand of pearls every day, even to bed, because her middle name was Pearl. Veronica had a mom and dad, who loved her very much, and a little sister, Elyse, who loved to play. She was, in fact, a perfectly ordinary girl, except for one very important thing—Veronica lived on a volcano.
“Lava bomb!” Veronica called brightly from the passenger seat, as her father backed the lava car out of the garage. She heard the telltale shriek and saw the orange glow. A flaming boulder, about the size of a school desk, streaked through the summer sky.
She pressed the red button in the center of the dashboard—a button clearly marked lava shield. The lava bomb struck with the force of a lightning bolt. Showers of incandescent stones hailed down upon them, as if from a volcanic thundercloud.
But Veronica and her dad hardly noticed. Above them, a clear lava shield rose out of the hood, extending over the car like a glass umbrella. Veronica watched the flames roar above their heads, die out, and then vanish. She pressed the red button again. This time the lava shield retracted, tucked back under the hood, and folded neatly out of sight.
“Dad, you do really think they’ll have volcano pearls in town—don’t you?” she asked.
“Absolutely—definitely, umm, maybe,” he stammered, not sure at all. “But if they don’t, you know you can always make her something. Mom loved your painting from last year.”
Veronica rolled her eyes. “Another painting? Mom’s going to be forty this year, and she needs something special—something she’ll take with her everywhere she goes. Something like these.” And she thumbed at the pearls around her neck.
The town of Crater Lake was a fifteen-minute drive from Veronica’s house, and she knew the way by heart: Turn right at the end of the long driveway, then go another mile or two down the volcano, following the road along the riverbed for five more miles. The river spilled into Crater Lake, and the town by the same name hugged the lake’s northern shore.
Both the town and the lake sat in the crater of a supervolcano. Supervolcanoes are particularly large volcanoes, of the world-ending sort, that can blanket the earth with ash and blot out the sun. Scientists say this supervolcano last erupted five million years ago, before there were any humans around to see it. Now, these same scientists say it is extinct—completely inactive—and of no threat to anyone.
But the volcano Veronica lived on was far from extinct. It was the closest active volcano to the town of Crater Lake, and everyone in town heard it rumble nearly every day.
As active as the volcano was, it had no official name. The townspeople referred to it as Mount Kaboom or even just Kaboom. But Veronica’s family never did. They referred to it as that Old Girl, the Red Lady, or simply She. (Veronica always thought Veronica’s Volcano had a certain ring to it. But her sister, her parents, her friends, and most everyone else disagreed.)
Veronica’s volcano was smaller, not at all of the world-ending sort, but worrying enough to the townspeople of Crater Lake. Their world, at least, could easily meet a fiery end from the right-sized eruption. Luckily, that eruption hadn’t happened—at least not yet. For as long as anyone could remember, Veronica’s volcano never did anything more than put on a show. Sure, it smoked every now and then, and erupted a bit of lava here and there, but that was about it.
Still, it was a volcano. The townspeople never quite understood why Veronica and her family chose to make their home in such an unforgiving place. But how they did so was no mystery. Veronica’s family had no special powers. Yes, they had guts and brains—and some special lava gadgets—but above all, they had respect for the volcano they called home. They knew when to stay, and they knew when to run. But today Veronica and her father were simply driving to town to pick up a birthday present.
The lava car rolled to a stop in front of the town’s only jewelry store. Veronica hopped out and walked briskly to the entrance. She noticed the sideways sign on the door and cocked her head to read the odd words: NOT CLOSED.
She opened the door gently and saw an old man behind a counter full of glittering gems. Crooked crayon portraits decorated every wall of the store. Some hung right-side up, some upside down, and some backwards. On another wall hung a sideways mirror. Veronica smiled at her reflection and straightened her pearls.
“Excuse me, sir?” she asked politely. “Do you—err—have any volcano pearls here?”
The old jeweler said nothing. He wore dark sunglasses in the dimly lit room. He looked to be at least seventy-five years old, with hair as white as snow and teeth as yellow as the sun. A tall, stiff collar rose from his frumpy jacket. The man grasped his chin and scrunched his forehead, as if thinking of something very far away.
Veronica noticed her father quietly enter the room. She repeated her question in a louder voice. “Excuse me, sir, do you have any volcano pearls here?”
“I’m blind, girl, not deaf,” he said, his voice as old and gravelly as his face. “I think we sold the last one yesterday, or maybe an hour ago, or maybe the year after the week before that. But . . . it’s possible, yes, that just maybe—” The jeweler stopped. “I might have a whole drawer full . . .”
He crossed the room slowly, tapping his cane with every step. He stopped at a large chest of drawers and slid the top one open. Veronica gasped. A pale white light reflected off his dark glasses. For a moment, he looked younger, familiar, alive.
Thud. He slammed it shut. “Nope, didn’t think so,” he said. “But you do know where else you can find volcano pearls, don’t you?”
“Let’s go, Veronica,” her father said. “It’s time to leave.” The old man ignored him. “Volcano pearls are cooled lava. They are mostly black, but sometimes—sometimes—they come in different colors. And white is the rarest of them all.”
“Yes, I know that,” Veronica said excitedly, clutching her pearls. “My grandmother left me these. I’m wearing them, see? White ones!”
“See?” the old man said. “Can’t you see? I’m in the dark! There was a time that I could see, and I have seen. I’ve seen what those pearls can do. And if you’re wearing what you say you are, you’re asking the wrong person for more.”
“Huh?” Veronica said. “But—this is a jewelry store. Who else would I—”
“Ask your daddy,” the old man said.
“Veronica, really, it’s time to go,” her father said again. “He doesn’t have the pearls.”
With wrinkled hands, the old man raised the cane high. “LOOKEE HERE!” he said, exposing a large white pearl handle. “Look familiar?”
Veronica clasped her hands to her chest. “Is that a . . . ?”
“You betcha!” he said. “The biggest one I’ve ever known. A child gave this to me yesterday, I think, or maybe it was tomorrow. One thing I know: Nothing on earth is rarer or more beautiful than a volcano pearl. If you’re lucky, you’ll find them on the far side of Mount Mystery, somewhere in the black sands. And if you’re unlucky, well . . .”
Veronica’s father’s face went white. “That’ll be enough, sir. Thank you very much,” he said, not meaning it at all.
But the old man was not finished. He bowed his head and looked at Veronica over the rim of his dark glasses. Where his eyes should have been were two hollow holes, black empty sockets.
Her mouth fell open.
“You see how evil man can be?” the blind man said darkly. “When the volcano does blow, true colors will show. Nature is nature. It’s always right. But man can be evil and man can be right. And man can be blinded by a terrible night. An evil is coming . . . he’s coming in white!”
Veronica stood transfixed by his blind stare. Her father rushed between them. “What’s wrong with you?” he said loudly. “As old as you are—scaring children—you should be ashamed. I’m sorry about your eyes, but it’s no excuse.”
“I’m sorry too,” the old man said, and he straightened his glasses.
“Veronica! Let’s go!” her father snapped. He hurried her out of the store and into the car.
Veronica wasted no time. “Daddy, where did my pearls come from? Are they really from Mount Mystery?”
“Uhh, well, I, uhh . . .” he faltered. “You know they were your grandmother’s, so I, uhh, think you should probably ask your mother that question.”
“So it’s true!” she said. “Can we go? To Mount Mystery? To the far side?”
“Veronica Pearl!” he chided, hoping her middle name, sternly uttered, might end the conversation. “You know why it’s called Mount Mystery. Lava is dangerous enough, but Mount Mystery is something else entirely. Violent eruptions, poisonous geysers, pyroclastic flows, lava bombs as big as houses. It’s just no place for little girls,” he said, cringing as the last two words passed his lips.
“But Daddy, I’m not a little girl anymore,” she said. “I’m ten. And I am old enough. Where else can I find volcano pearls for Mom? The old man . . . he’s right, isn’t he?”
“Him? Right?” Her father laughed. “Please . . . he’s nothing but a spooky-talk-spewing kook.” He glanced away from the road and into her pleading eyes. “Veronica, listen to me, I know you’re not a little girl anymore. And your mother would love ’em, I’m sure. I’ll tell you what . . . I’ll think about it.”
Veronica smiled. One parent down, one to go, she thought. A maybe from her dad was as good as a yes. From her mom, well, that was a different story.
The lava car raced through the volcanic countryside. Veronica settled back into her seat, quietly gazing out the window, and daydreaming about the wonders she’d find in the black sands on the far side of Mount Mystery.