Monday, May 31, 2010

HOT Topic: How Does a Volcano Become An Island? by Linda Tagliaferro

The world's largest island that is almost entirely made up of active (still capable of erupting) volcanoes is Iceland, a country in the north Atlantic Ocean. Iceland formed millions of years ago from underwater eruptions.

With Iceland's notorious Eyjafjallajokul still spewing a plume of ash all over western Europe, volcanoes are a real, um, hot topic just now. Linda Tagliaferro's newest, How Does A Volcano Become An Island? (Perspectives) (Raintree, 2010), offers an timely, absorbing, and informative look at the role of volcanic activity in the creation of Earth's landforms.

Tagliaferro opens with "What's Inside Earth?" a chapter which covers the basics of geology, including the planet's inner and outer core of molten iron, the mantle, and the crust, of which only a small part constitutes the solid portion of our world. From this basis the author moves to a discussion of the movement of tectonic plates, the consequent earthquakes they may cause, and the rise of earthquakes at certain weak spots in the crust, with special attention to the Ring of Fire, noted dormant and currently active volcanoes, and the development and study of underwater volcanoes by the submersible ROVs, (Remotely Operated Vehicles). The textbook types, shield volcanoes, cinder cone volcanoes, and composite cone volcanoes, are described and their role in constructing islands such as Iceland, Sicily, and the Hawaiian chain are introduced, amplified by full-color photographs on each page.

The author then turns her attention to the development of plant and animal life on volcanic islands over time, as birds drop seeds, coconuts float up on cinder cone beaches, and stowaway plants and animals ride flotsam on ocean currnts until they fortuitously wash up onshore. The Galapagos Islands and their exotic lifeforms, such as the marine iguana, giant tortoises, up to six feet in length and living 100 years or more, lava gulls and waved albatrosses, are given special coverage. Iceland, with its newest volcanic islet, Surtsey, dating back only to 1963, is discussed, with photos of its new inhabitants--seagulls, grasses, and, yes, dandelions. Historic eruptions, such as that of Earth's most memorable modern island volcano, Krakatoa, are also described.

The final chapter, "How Else Do Islands Form?" briefly covers islands produced by the flooding of lowlands, coral atolls, and offshore barrier islands. Appendices include a glossary of the terms introduced in boldface in the text, a bibliography ("Find Out More"), books and a trio of "hot" websites for further research, and a complete index.

With a crisp and highly readable and informative text, plenty of diagrams and color photos which illustrate information as it is presented, and useful backmatter, this latest title in Raintree's wide-ranging Perspectives science series is particularly useful for curriculum support, research, and browsing by students intrigued with the volcano currently in the news.

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  • It's Linda Tagliaferro here. Thanks so much for reviewing one of my books, "How Does a Volcano Become an Island?"

    If your readers are interested in more of my books, they can read about them at my website,

    Older readers might also be interested in reading my YA title, "Galapagos Islands: Nature's Delicate Balance at Risk."

    Thanks so much!
    Linda Tagliaferro

    By Anonymous Linda Tagliaferro, at 1:01 PM  

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