Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Storm in the barn

The Storm in the barn

Matt Phelan
Graphic Novel
For ages 10 and up
Candlewick Press, 2009   ISBN: 0763636185

Jack’s life is full of pain and hardship. The land is being ravaged by dust storms and drought. Jacks parents are barely able to survive, Jack is being bullied by the big boys in town, and Jack’s sister Dorothy has dust pneumonia. The only bright moments in the dreary days are when Jack reads with his sister, and when he visits Ernie at the store. Ernie tells Jack great stories about a hero called Jack who does all kinds of wonderful things.

Then Jack notices a bright light shining out of the window of an abandoned barn near his parent’s farm. No one should be in the barn, and yet when he investigates the barn one night Jack sees a bag full of light and a man with a face that “looked like rain.” It is all very strange.

Looking for his precocious little sister Mabel, Jack ends up in the mysterious barn again and he sees the rain man – again. The man, or creature is terrifying, and Jack does not know what to do. His sister Dorothy believes that Jack has everything he needs to do great things deep inside him. It is just that he hasn’t been able to show the world how useful he can be because of the dust storms and the drought.

Despair swirls around Jack, and he finally decides that something has to be done.

Combining historical fiction, folklore, and fantasy, Matt Phelan tells a gripping story that readers will find irresistible. With images that are often startling and even painful, this is a graphic novel that readers off all ages will appreciate. It captures the misery that was life during the Dust Bowl, and it gives a voice to all those children who suffered without really understanding what was happening.