Phelan, Matt. 2009. The Storm in the Barn. Candlewick Press. 204 pages. Releases September 8, 2009.
What should you know about this one? Well, it's a graphic novel. It's set in 1937, in Kansas, during the Dust Bowl. But don't let the fact that it's "historical" deter you. It stars an eleven year old boy, Jack, who isn't having the easiest time of it. He's picked on by bullies, for one thing, and his home life isn't the greatest. As you might imagine, it isn't easy for this family--or any family--to thrive, or to even survive. In fact, the first few pages show a family that has given up. That has decided to move on, to move away. But what makes it worse for Jack and his family is the fact that one of his sisters is sick; the fact that she may not survive. In the midst of all this, Jack is trying to solve a mystery. He's not quite sure if his senses are playing tricks on him...or not...but there's something, or someone, in a deserted barn...and Jack wants answers...
Do you believe, boy?
Do you believe in power?
Do you believe in the power of the Rain?
Do you fear the Storm, boy?
What did I love about this one? Well, the more mythological aspects of it. The jacket describes this one "as rich in lore" and I'd have to agree with that.
From the author's note:I also loved the family dynamics. In particular, I loved the fact that Jack was trying to find his place within the family. I loved the relationships he had with his two sisters: Dorothy and Mabel. (Loved the scene where he was reading one of the Oz adventures aloud to his sisters. What a good big brother! And what a nice way of introducing some of the themes into the larger story.) The tension between Jack and his father was well done as well.
I knew I wanted this book to be a story set in the Dust Bowl but not a story directly about the Dust Bowl. I wanted to bring in elements of American folklore, like the Jack tales that were still being told and the Oz books that had been enthralling kids for thirty-odd years at that point. In the next two years, The Wizard of Oz would become a movie and Superman would leap from the pages of comic books, but in 1937 there were mostly just stories--stories a boy in Kansas would think about as he looked at a land apparently as cursed as any in the fairy tales.
So I'd definitely recommend this one.
Shelf Elf's interview with Matt Phelan. Shelf Elf's review of The Storm in the Barn. Amanda's review of Storm in the Barn.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews