by Matt Phelan. (Candlewick, 2009. ISBN 9780763636180. Order Info.) Graphic Novel. 208 pages. Grades 3-10.
Where the children's literature tradition of wordless books meets the comic book tradition through today's graphic novels comes The Storm in the Barn. Many pages are wordless and most are broken into four to eight cells.
This winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction is an outstanding example of a graphic novel which excels at illustrating a historical phenomenon. Set in the American Heartland during the Dust Bowl of the 1930's this is the story of one eleven year old boy's incredible experiences of the times as it ventures into the realm of fairy tales and tall tales. Best used after students have already had some exposure to information on the Dust Bowl.
The book explores the experience of an individual family through the eyes of an eleven year old boy as he tries to make sense of the dust storms and the lack of rain four years into the drought.
Jack's sister, Dorothy, is laid up with dust pneumonia. Each day, while Jack spends time by Dorothy's bed, she recounts to him episodes from L. Frank Baum's Oz stories that she has been reading -- following Dorothy of the story's attempts to cross the desert that stands between her and the Land of OZ.
Jack is unable to take up the expected role of helping his father on the farm due to the failure of their crops and feels quite useless. He catches a glimpse of some kind of storm phantom in a neighbor's deserted barn and people become concerned that he must have a kind of dementia that some people have been coming down with from living in the surreal conditions of watching their farms dry up and then become buried under several feet of dust. Still, Jack is drawn back to the barn and to the mysterious creature who clearly has something to do with the witholding of the rain.
A fantasy based in a realistic setting this is a great book for bringing home the haunting experience of those who lived through the disaster. It's also a good introduction to graphic novels for students unaccustomed to the genre.
It's interesting that both Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse and this sparcely texted graphic novel are written in unusual formats. The Dust Bowl itself was so surreal that it seems to demand alternative methods of telling the story. The book includes an author's note about coming across photographs of the faces of people during the Dust Bowl.
Following these links will take you off our web site. You will have to use your back button to return or, bookmark our site now so you can return anytime.
Subscribe to our Free Email Newsletter.
In Times Past
by Carol Hurst and Rebecca Otis
Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8.
Enliven your US History curriculum!
Teach US History using great kids books.