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The Storm in the Barn Paperback – September 27, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Set during the 1930s, when Kansas farmers tried to survive during a terrible drought, this graphic novel for younger readers shows a boy discovering that he can save his family by bringing back the rain. Jack Clark is a shy 11-year-old whose father thinks he's useless at practical chores. The boy is not used to having any responsibilities, so when he sees a dark figure lurking in an abandoned barn near their house, he doesn't want to do anything about it. He'd rather chalk it up to dust dementia, until he realizes that the brooding shape is the rain, which has withdrawn from the land so that people will yearn for it until they are willing to worship it as a god. What Jack does next won't surprise readers who've seen countless puny but plucky heroes in juvenile fiction. The big novelty here is the Dust Bowl setting, and Phelan's art emphasizes the swirling, billowing clouds of fine grit that obscure even nearby objects. Older readers might have appreciated more text to make up for the lack of visual clarity, but kids will identify with Jack and appreciate his success. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5-7-It is 1937 in Kansas, during the Dust Bowl, and 11-year-old Jack can barely remember a world with plentiful water and crops. Unable to help his father with a harvest that isn't there, and bullied by the other boys his age, he feels like a useless baby. Stories offer a refuge, and there are multiple stories in this work. Jack's mother tells about the time when the land was a fertile paradise. Jack's invalid sister, Dorothy, is readingThe Wizard of Oz, gaining inspiration from the adventures of another Kansan of the same name. Jack's friend comforts him with folktales about a brave man named Jack who masters nature, battling the King of the West Wind, the King of Blizzards, and the King of the Northeast Winds. In the end, Phelan turns the Dust Bowl into another one of Ernie's Jack tales when the real Jack encounters the Storm King in an abandoned barn and finds out that he has been holding back the rain. The boy must then gather the strength to determine his own narrative, as well as his parched town's future. Children can read this as a work of historical fiction, a piece of folklore, a scary story, a graphic novel, or all four. Written with simple, direct language, it's an almost wordless book: the illustrations' shadowy grays and blurry lines eloquently depict the haze of the dust. A complex but accessible and fascinating book. –Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY END --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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"The Storm in the Barn" takes place during the Dust Bowl, a period during the early 20th century when the Midwestern states were hit by dust storms and severe drought that destroyed crops, livelihoods, and entire communities. Jack, a boy living on a failing farm in Kansas, feels useless to help his father with the farm or even comfort his sister, who suffers from a terrible sickness brought on by the dust. As the community struggles to survive however they can, the lonely and despondent Jack discovers something strange in an abandoned barn -- a tall and menacing stranger with a face like rain. The stranger turns out to be something not quite human, and may be the key to ending the drought and saving the farm... if Jack can gather the courage to face and defeat the personification of a storm...
The artwork in this book is sketchy and colorless, but somehow is even stronger for both those traits. The sepia-toned drawings evoke the feel of the time period, a world of dust and bleached colors and tired faces. The author makes great use of shadows, sketched lines, and billows of dust to convey the tired, drained look of the world... and when color is used, such as during a brutal jackrabbit roundup, it's all the more powerful for its use.
The story itself does a great job of capturing the hardscrabble, desperate life of people living in the Dust Bowl, and shows a young boy's coming of age during a difficult time. Readers of all ages should be able to sympathize with Jack, a boy who just wants to make a difference even during a seemingly hopeless time. And the fantasy elements don't feel tacked on, but blended seamlessly into the story. Historical fiction is often seen as a dry and uninteresting genre, and the adding of a little bit of the supernatural doesn't weaken it but rather adds flavor and fascination, especially for younger readers.
Warning to parents -- this book does have some shocking elements, notably violence from a gang of bullies and a rabbit roundup that ends in a massacre. These elements are handled fairly tastefully, but all the same, parents may want to give this a read before handing it to a sensitive child.
A powerful read that captures the feel of a desperate era of American history, while at the same time making the tale unique with the inclusion of some supernatural elements. Even if kids think historical fiction is boring, they should enjoy this graphic novel, which is a nice blend of history and fantasy that should appeal to many readers. Good for ages 8 and up.
Kansas circa 1937 is shown through the eyes of an eleven year old boy named Jack Clark. While a bunch of bullies swings at him with their fists and their harsh words, a dust storm blows through town, and Jack runs off. Soon, we meet his family: Pa is gruff, Ma is sad, his sister Dorothy is sick, and his littlest sister, Mabel, has never seen rain. Jack overhears the doctor telling his father that Dorothy's condition is called "dust pneumonia," and that a new trend, "dust dementia," has started to spread. After seeing an odd face in the abandoned Talbot farm, Jack begins to worry that he too has been made ill by the storm.
Using pencil, ink, and watercolor, Phelan has created stark, dusty images of distinct, proud characters that will certainly stay with the reader. As Jack's level of courage goes up and down, so does his posture: sometimes he is slouched, and he often hides his eyes under the brim of his hat, but when push comes to shove, he stares, he shouts, and he stands straight up. There are wordless panels which express a great deal, such as the two panels on one of my favorite pages (199, which comes towards the very end, so don't you dare skip ahead!)
With her songs and and her smile, little sister Mabel steals every single scene - rather, panel - that she's in. Whenever she was shown skipping around with her umbrella, I thought of the Morton Salt Girl. Her natural curiosity and happiness nicely countered the sadness expressed by other, older characters.
Phelan also weaves in the power of storytelling: While bed-ridden Dorothy reads Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Ernie down at the General Supply tells young Jack tall tales which always star a courageous boy named Jack.
Highly recommended for young readers and their families.
Most recent customer reviews
Set in the Dust Bowl '30s, 11-year-old Jack and his family are going to have to leave.Read more
I have been fascinated with the Dust Bowl era in America since reading Timothy Egan's marvelous book, The Worst Hard Time.Read more