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Look at my face –dark as the night—yet shining like the sun with love’s true light,Langston Hughes. Like Lava in My Veins 

Like Lava In My Veins

by Derrick Barnes
Good for Reluctant Readers, Graphic Novel

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Bobby Beacon has fire flowing through his veins, and he’s psyched to attend a new school that’ll help him get a better grip on his powers! But right off the bat, his new teacher is not too welcoming. That causes Bobby’s hot temper to land him in the principal’s office. It isn’t easy to stay calm when people don’t seem to understand you and are always pushing you to the edge. Good thing Bobby gets moved to a class with an understanding teacher who teaches him ways to calm himself. Bobby’s new teacher also shows him that caring for others is its own kind of superpower. With her help—and some cool new friends—Bobby just might be on his way to becoming the best version of himself. 

Bobby learns that “as long as you have someone who believes in you and appreciates everything from your toes to the tiny flames on the tip of your hair, you can become anything in this great big world. And most of all, you are needed, you are loved.” 

Anyone who has ever felt invisible will connect with Bobby, who struggles with keeping his temper under control. Bobby tries to stay out of trouble but his teacher gets angry when he fidgets. When Bobby switches to a different classroom, he connects to his new teacher, who is kind and encouraging. When Bobby starts to get angry, his teacher guides him through breathing exercises. Finally, Bobby’s heroic characteristics come out during an assembly when a supervillain breaks into the school and Bobby has to use his superhero powers to save the school. 

Like Lava in My Veins contrasts two classrooms—one with a critical teacher and the other with an encouraging teacher. With the help of the encouraging teacher, Bobby gains self-confidence. In the end, Bobby’s experiences highlight the importance of giving someone a second chance. The book also shows how easy it is for a student to be sent to the Institute for Supervillains. While Bobby’s story ends on a happy note, Like Lava in My Veins shines a light on society’s tendency to punish Black children harshly.  

Using a graphic novel format, Like Lava in My Veins has the feel of a superhero comic with bright colors, large quote bubbles, and expressive faces. Each page has one to seven sentences printed in large font. The short sentences use easy-to-read vocabulary that makes the book accessible to struggling readers. Even though the recommended reading age for the book is 5 – 8 years old, Bobby is in the fifth grade which gives the book a more mature tone.  

Superhero fans will enjoy Like Lava in My Veins because of the relatable protagonist and the fast-paced action sequences. Readers will cheer when Bobby defeats a supervillain. While the story shows the importance of having an encouraging teacher, it doesn’t give readers advice on what to do if they have a teacher who is critical of them. Despite this, readers will enjoy seeing Bobby gain confidence and use his powers for good.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 


  • When the bus driver doesn’t stop to pick up Bobby, Bobby “placed my palms on the ground. The road ripped open, and a tidal wave of molten lava formed a wall in front of the bus. . . Guess what? The driver slammed his boot on the brakes and then let me in, like he should’ve done in the first place.” No one is injured.  
  • Pause, a black student “got expelled for turning a teacher into a statue. . . All she did was sing. Just floated a couple of sweet notes in the air that landed softly in the ear of a fifth-grade teacher named Mr. Remington—he was frozen solid.” 
  • In class, Bobby gets upset that his teacher won’t call on him to answer questions. Bobby “started to feel invisible, like I wasn’t even there. . . I had accidentally melted my chair down to the floor like candle wax.” Bobby is sent to the principal’s office. 
  • During an assembly, the headmaster from The Institute for Supervillains “blasted a hole in the wall with his enormous stone fists. With him was his new star pupil—Pause.” Pause freeze the audience. “Their bodies were motionless, but their eyes reached back and forth in their heads like they were watching a tennis match. It was creepy.” 
  • The headmaster and Pause try to convince Bobby to join their team. When he refuses, “Pause cupped her hands around her mouth and tried shooting more of those hypnotic notes at me. . .” Bobby uses a “shield made of hardened lava which bounced the sound right back to her. . .She instantly froze.” 
  • To defeat the headmaster, Bobby aimed “an enormous beam of golden lava shot at his stone fist and welded them together. He couldn’t do anything but to drop to the cold, hard floor.” The full battle with the headmaster and Pause is illustrated over eight pages.  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None


  • None 


  • Bobby goes to school with others who have special powers. For example, one student can make others tell the truth. “All he has to do is touch you, and the truth just comes pouring out of your mouth like Niagara Falls.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 
Other books you may enjoy

Look at my face –dark as the night—yet shining like the sun with love’s true light,Langston Hughes. Like Lava in My Veins 

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