Chris Murray's Reviews > The Storm in the Barn

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
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Dec 08, 10

bookshelves: graphic-novel, historical-fiction

Phelan Matt. The Storm in the Barn (2009)
The Storm in the Barn is a graphic novel about an 11 year old boy, Jack, living on a farm in Kansas during the 1930s. It is the time of the Dust Bowl and Jack and his family are suffering from the effects of the dust storms and lack of rain. His father is sullen and angry, his mother is sad, his older sister, Dorothy, is ailing from dust pneumonia and his younger sister, Mabel, has never seen rain. When he sees mysterious lights and then an eerie face in an abandoned barn near his house, Jack too feels like he may be experiencing illness - dust dementia. The boys at school bully Jack, and his one friend Ernie, at the general store cheers him up with stories of a supernatural hero named Jack and his victories over the King of Blizzards and the King of the West Wind. The Storm in the Barn takes on a supernatural twist when Jack discovers it’s the Rain King hiding in the barn, withholding precious rain so that he can become more powerful and worshipped by the people. Jack must battle the Rain King just like the Jack of Ernie’s stories.
Because this is a graphic novel, the artwork must tell much of the story, and the artwork in Storm in the Barn is outstanding. The pictures are sketchy and simply drawn, yet they are able to express a great deal, especially in the faces and body language of the characters. Matt Phelan uses many panels to depict just one action or emotion, but his greatly adds depth to the story. Colors help create the mood of the book. They are the muted grays and browns of dust, but the book becomes more colorful in the “Jack Tales” and when Jack’s mother describes life before Dust Bowl times. Red is used very effectively to depict blood. This is a wonderful book that could be read by children in many grades with each getting their own level of enjoyment and meaning from the story.
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