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The Storm in the Barn

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  3,515 ratings  ·  577 reviews
Tall tale. Thriller. Gripping historical fiction. This artful, sparely told graphic novel — a tale of a boy in Dust Bowl America — will resonate with young readers today.

In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father’s failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to d
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Candlewick Press
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,515 ratings  ·  577 reviews

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Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Do Americans like to romanticize the past too much? Sometimes it feels that way. We keep idly wondering about those “simpler times” when the world felt slower and more measured. We conveniently forget about the hardships, the blood, the pain, or we never remember them at all. Matt Phelan, however, will never be accused of romanticizing the Dust Bowl. An illustrator by trade, Phelan has come out with his very first graphic novel for kids. A measured, handsome volume, The Storm in the Barn is part ...more
I literally speed through this. It's pretty amazing that pictures, pictures, and pictures with a couple words sprinkled through the pages could impact the reader.

I liked the magic realism, the art, the colors, the history.

Although, not a fan of the dust:

modern dust
Nicola Mansfield
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
A combination of historical fiction and fantasy/folklore make up this strange tale that takes place during the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s. A family has been suffering for four years now without rain. The eldest daughter has dust pneumonia, the youngest has never seen rain, the father cannot work the farm on his own, the mother realizes they must pull up stakes and move and now 11yo Jack, our hero, has been too young to help around the farm as he grew over the years. He thinks he is a klutz ...more
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I had heard fantastic things about this graphic novel, but thought it was just so-so. The illustrations are beautiful -- soft watercolor imbuing everything with washes of ochre, greys and blues-- but the story didn't work.

Set in the Dustbowl of 1937, Jack, a young boy raised on a farm, is the victim of bullies, the weather, and a family struggling to survive (in the case of his sister, literally). He escapes into town to hear stories from a local merchant, or reads with his sister from the Oz bo
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic
Growing up during the Dust Bowl, Jack and his sisters know little but poverty, depression, and anxiety. Their father is depressed, the older girl is seriously ill, and Jack is badly bullied by other boys. The children's only pleasures are fantasy stories and their mother's memories of a green and prosperous past.

The dominant use of dull, sere colors and the repetitive, often wordless panels did a great job of conveying the dead dryness of the land and the boredom and despair of the people who c
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Beautiful, simple, yet detailed illustrations with very few words. Told from an 11 year old boy's perspective, in 1937 Kansas. There is no rain and Jack wants to know how he can fix it.

Some of the story was brutal and graphic. It was told with as much grace as possible, I suppose.

All in all a quick and enjoyable experience. Hard to call it a "read" since there are so few words.
I picked this up today on a whim at work. After reading it, I was sure I'd come here to Goodreads to find lots of glowing reviews. Hmmm. Most people didn't seem to like it very much. I honestly don't understand the dislike.

Phelan's way of telling the story of a family struggling in Dust Bowl Kansas reminded me a tad of a Neil Gaiman story (and hush, ye who wail and say, "He's no Neil Gaiman!" No, he's not, but it's that same sort of fantasy-within-reality that's reminiscent of Gaiman's work). Th
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: 4th grade and up
So, I wanted to love this with the same kind of passion I have for The Arrival, but I didn't quite. I give it three and a half stars. I like its unusual genre: historical fiction in graphic novel format, with a twist of tall tale and the incorporation of some of the Jack tales and "The Wizard of Oz." Maybe it was Matt Phelan's very soft illustrations (you've seen them in "The Higher Power of Lucky"; little sister Mabel is cute as a button) that belied the dark thriller hiding in this story. Befo ...more
Lisa Gricius
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
If you're looking for a book with many elements, look no further! Matt Phelan's, The Storm in the Barn is a graphic novel encompassing historical-fiction, folklore and horror, along with paying homage to another great piece of literature, The Wizard of Oz! The text is limited, but the story unfolds in the beautifully stunning illustrations. Matt Phelan has captured the grittiness and haziness of the Kansis Dustbowl. I found myself squinting and peering more closely, feeling as if I was being tra ...more
Monica Edinger
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
Blog review here.
Irene McHugh
The illustrations in this graphic novel swirl with dust. Jack, the underdog main character, gets bullied at school and feels useless around his family farm where there is nothing for anyone to do. Four years have passed with no rain.

His older sister has contracted dust pneumonia and his family fears Jack may have dust dementia. Jack knows he’s healthy, but he can’t explain what presence is in the barn.

The build up to the confrontation with the sinister watery figure in the barn takes most of the
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent illustratios along with a exciting and deep story line.
Eva Mitnick
Young Jack is the hero of our tale. Picked on by bullies and deemed useless by his careworn dad, he is a caring and helpful brother to his sisters, one of whom has "dust pneumonia" and must spend her days in bed under a draped cloth, reading her Oz books (this is Kansas, after all). When an abandoned barn on the neighboring property begins emitting a periodic strange light at night, Jack warily investigates - and soon comes in contact with a moist and hostile creature who seems in some way to be ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Kids, teens, adults.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
I didn't realize this is a Juvenile Graphic Novel when I borrowed it from the library - but, I don't mind reading children's books once in a while, and this is more or less a children's book in graphic novel form. Having said that, I did find the sketchy/vanishing drawings well-suited to the subject - that of the encroaching dust/desert in the dust bowl of the 1930s.

This book can be read in less than an hour as the story is mostly conveyed in drawings with minimal text. I would say the author/a
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
'The Storm in the Barn' by Matt Phelan is a historical graphic novel set in Kansas around 1937 during the Dust Bowl. Eleven-year-old Jack Clark is the protagonist of the story. He lives with his father, mother, and sister, Dorothy, on a farm that is suggested has been in the family for generations. But now a drought has struck the land and no one can seem to grow anything. Many farmers in the area have already packed up and moved away, leaving their abandoned houses and barns to be reclaimed by ...more
Becky B
Told in comic book style form, Jack is a young boy in Kansas during the Dust Bowl. His family is struggling with the effects of the drought --one sister has dust pneumonia, the farm isn't producing, and they are all depressed. On top of all that, Jack is struggling with being bullied and feeling useless. There is something mysterious in the neighbor's abandoned barn and by unraveling that mystery Jack finds some worth and the answer to many of the family's problems.

I normally love fantasy and f
Aug 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Were I to base my review solely on the art, this book would easily nab five stars. It's an incredibly beautiful and expressive piece in that arena, with the use of color and the amazingly rendered facial expressions lingering in the mind long after the book is closed.

Unfortunately, the story never gels. While the historical elements were both poignant and well-delivered, the main story of Jack versus the King of Storms lacked development. The use of American tall tales is a great touch, but this
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I had mixed reactions to this graphic novel about a timid boy living with his agriculturally-dependent family during the Dust Bowl Era. It hasn't rained since he was seven; he's now eleven and a sadder face on a child you never did see. His older sister has some kind of breathing disorder caused by all the dust and our hero has been accused of suffering from dust dementia. His father writes him off as useless and he is often the victim of bullying by the town thugs. So when he sees the spirit of ...more
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-492
I’m a fan of graphic novels so I’m a little biased when it comes to liking them, and this book isn’t an exception. It’s beautifully drawn, with lots of space empty of text, and Phelan is imaginative with the antagonist (and uses some cool imagery; I really liked the snakes nailed along fences). Story wise, the plot isn’t too complex, it reminded me of a folk tale mixed in with a creative coming of age story. However, it’s a fun read, and while I’m not aware how accurate dust storms are, I think ...more
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: j-fiction
In the dust bowl of the 1930s, 12-year-old Jack feels useless at home and against the town bullies, but a storekeeper's Jack tales spur him to take on the monster in a neighbor's abandoned barn and release the rain that had not fallen for 5 years.
This splendid graphic novel is a modern Jack tale, with more motivation shown than the traditional stories offer but the same kind of derring-do. Phelan manages to combine a keen and foreboding sense of the time (including his sister, coughing with dust
Cait Lackey
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
"The Storm in the Barn" is a graphic novel that tells a story of young boy named Jack and his struggle to find his place and worth within his community and family. The novel takes place during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, and historically the novel shows a realistic portrayal of what people struggled with during the time. The story has an interesting plot and is well illustrated and a rather quick read.

As a future teacher I would recommend this book be taught to students at the 6th,7th or 8th gra
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It's about a boy growing up in Kansas in the Dust Bowl years. Times are hard because of a number of factors that I won't go into, because it reads so quick that I fear I'd give it away.
His neighbor's abandoned bard gives of a eclipsing (that a word? :)) radiant light, so he goes to investigate only to find a mysterious, shady figure that appears to be part precipitation. He's accused of dust dimentia, and determined to prove everyone wrong and find out if he can save his town, he investigates.
Bronwyn Trusty
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Niki Marion
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Kinda wish Phelan had said more about Native American genocide in his flashback besides, "The Indians had [the land] first...Then the white folks moved them out." But this is a distinctly American folk graphic novel, and what's more American than telling sanitized versions of colonialist history to children?

Solid Red panels to convey death are visually brilliant. And the premise, with its tall tale roots, is pretty compelling. If the Native American bit was just left out entirely, this would be
Kimberly Ward
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Beautifully illustrated this is a story about a young boy and his family’s struggles during the dust bowl era. One day young Jack takes refuge from a dust storm in his neighbor’s barn. Jack discovers some unexpected things going on; an odd figure of “the storm king,” a puddle of water (Jack has never seen rain before). Some think that Jack has “rain dementia” but could it be real? The pictures are mostly in sepia tones but at times Phalen uses color to illustrate a mood. I was really drawn into ...more
A fast read and a decent story, but I didn't love it. It may have been that it was just too short for me to really get attached to the characters or that the mix of historical fiction and fantasy/magical realism didn't ring true to me. It just didn't pack any emotional punch. I thought that my book club kids would have liked it, however, but they did not. They all had a very meh reaction and found the premise too hard to swallow.
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Phelan tells the story of the American Dust Bowl in an almost wordless graphic novel. Winner of the 2010 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, each panel of the story conveys the intensity of Jack and his family's suffering during this time in drought-ridden Kansas. Pair with Karen Hesse's novel in verse, Out of the Dust.
L13 Tracy Beling
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
FYI...Interesting graphic novel about the Dust Bowl. It's quite long and some of the illustrations were a little hard for me to follow, but it tells about this historical time through the interesting perspective of a young boy. The author provides a note at the end of the book, which I suggest you read before you start the story. It is very helpful to understanding the story.
A creepy Dust Bowl story. (What is the fascination with everything Dust Bowl lately??) The muted tones in the art are used to great effect here, but I personally had a hard time following the story at times. An authentic period piece.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Matt Phelan convey more emotion in a few strokes than many writers do in chapters. That is my main reaction--awe--at this amazing part historical, part-fantastical GN. Set in the Dust Bowl. Just read it.
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Matt Phelan made his illustrating debut with Betty G. Birney’s The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster). Since then he has illustrated many picture books and novels for young readers, including Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli (Dial), Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle (Harcourt), and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Simon & Schuster) winner of the 2007 Ne ...more