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The Picture Book Buzz

Climbing the Volcano: A Journey in Haiku - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I've always loved, and been very impressed with, haiku picture books. And having spent numerous trips hiking in the Oregon and Washington Cascades, I was really excited to see this book! This book is a gorgeous ode to the South Sister volcano.

Book cover - boy looking at reader as family pauses by a lake during the hike to a volcano.

Climbing the Volcano: A Journey in Haiku

Author: Curtis Manley

Illustrator: Jennifer K. Mann

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Ages: 4-8



Haiku, volcanos, hiking, nature, and wonder.


Through haiku, a young boy narrates his family's invigorating hike to the peak of Oregon's South Sister volcano.

For centuries, haiku has offered meditation on the grace and majesty of nature. In Climbing the Volcano, old meets new as a young protagonist uses the poetic form to voice his wonder. Treking uphill, the family encounters tiny toads, colorful butterflies, soaring birds of prey, and so much more to see, do, and feel.

Climbing the Volcano is a call to adventure in the natural world, and a wonderful introduction to poetic forms. Young readers will be inspired to summit their own peaks and to find their own voices to share what they discover there. Whether you live in the shadow of a volcano, amid sprawling flatlands, or anywhere in between, Climbing the Volcano invites you to get out there and explore.

Opening Lines:

dormant volcano—

but at sunrise each day

it blazes

What I LOVED about this book:

I love this opening haiku. The sense of a sleeping volcano still able to glow red each morning. And I love how Jennifer K. Mann beautifully captured that moment before everything stirs and mirrored the same shape and color of the mountain in the family's tent.

Internal image - early morning sunrise glowing on mountain in far distance and a domed orange tent at a campsite.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2024. Image © Jennifer K. Mann, 2024.

I also adore picture books with amazing "undies" - those fun treasures found under the dust jacket. In this case, we get a panoramic view of the mountain from across the lake on the jacket and another panoramic view as the family approaches the summit with another mountain in the background on the cover. Jennifer's textures and digital art are simply stunning.

Book jacket (above) - boy looking at reader as family pauses by a lake during the hike to a volcano. Book cover (below) - family hiking on mountain ridge with mountain range behind them.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2024. Image © Jennifer K. Mann, 2024.

Narrated, in haiku, by a young boy, the book follows a family from their campsite to the ridge of the volcano (which back matter notes is a 12 mile, 4,930-foot-high hike). Concise and engaging, humorous and contemplative, the text chronicles the boy's discoveries - things he sees (human and animal prints), feels (toad and mosquitoes), hears (rushing stream and crunching pumice), and tastes (trail mix).

The combination of beautiful imagery in Curtis Manley's poems (up here in the sky -/ what everyone talks about/ is butterflies) and gorgeous, muted illustrations (both in series of spots or grand sweeping vistas) take the reader on a special sensory climb up the mountain. Jennifer's collography technique, described (here), allowed her to create amazing textures in the slopes, pumice, and boulders.

Internal image - on left, boy scrambling over a rocky trail. On right, boy looking into the sky at a swirling mass of butterflies.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2024. Image © Jennifer K. Mann, 2024.

This particular spread is one of my favorite images and poems in the book. It reminds me of a number of mountain lakes along hikes in the North Cascades. Jennifer masterfully captures the majesty and power I've felt in these Mountains.

Internal image - family resting by a lake, looking at the mountain's reflection.

Text © Curtis Manley, 2024. Image © Jennifer K. Mann, 2024.

resting at the lake -

the mountain shivers

in the breeze

Curtis and Jennifer do a spectacular job of portraying the wonder the family finds along the way, as they explore, trudge, rest, and eventually reach the summit (I made it/ to the summit - / jumping even higher!) and then experience more adventures as they descend with a perfect circular moment taking them texturally and visually back to their campsite, with the mosquitoes.

The back matter includes information about the South Sister volcano, geology, and writing English-language haiku. As well as an illustrated list of supplies for hiking (whether a mountain or not), a gorgeous page of the animals and plants mentioned or seen throughout the book, and further resources.

This would be a terrific book to use in a poetry unit for elementary to high school students; challenging the older students to write their own series of connected haiku. The meditative and sensory haiku pair beautifully with the textured mixed-media illustrations to create a wonderful read-aloud, perfect before (during) a family camping trip or as a relaxing snuggle. Absolutely a picture book to treasure.


Photo of Collagraph print made from bubble wrap, felt, and hemp.
Photo image from Bronx Musuem Education video on collography.
  • try your hand at making a collography image. Instructions here and here.

  • take a walk or sit in your yard or favorite park and write your own haiku about what you notice with your senses.

  • have you gone camping? If so describe or draw your favorite area to camp. If you haven't, where would like to camp?

If you missed the interview with Curtis Manley and Jennifer K. Mann on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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