Daily Archives: July 17, 2009

The Storm in the Barn

stormMatt Phelan’s upcoming graphic novel, The Storm in the Barn, is really something. It is a thrilling and moving piece of historical fiction set in 1937 Kansas, with beautiful muted illustrations that practically make you taste the dust.

Jack Clark hasn’t had an easy childhood. It hasn’t rained for years and the tension in his small town couldn’t get much worse. At home, his father and mother have shrunk into themselves, barely able to hang onto the dreams they once had, and the farm life they used to know. One of his sisters is sick, with “dust pneumonia,” and the doctor hints that Jack’s increasingly strange and withdrawn behaviors might be “dust dementia.” He gets bullied by a group of local kids and his father never gives him the chance to prove his worth. One night, Jack ventures into the abandoned Talbot barn and what he finds there could change everything, if he’s brave enough to go back and face what’s inside.

It’s pretty clear that Matt Phelan is a tremendously gifted illustrator. The emotion that he can convey with the most understated colors and simple lines is remarkable. There is a sequence with a jackrabbit drive that will make you ache, every bit as gut-wrenching as how it could be portrayed on film. I loved the way the color shifts throughout, mirroring the changing tone of the narrative.

Also, as a complete aside, what is it with being eleven? I’ve read so many books with 11-year old protagonists lately. It ain’t easy to be 11, that’s for sure.

The Storm in the Barn will take your breath away. I cannot wait to read the rest of the graphic novels floating around in Matt’s head. Absolutely stunning.

Now, it won’t feel quite so much like just a sneaky grab if I post the aweomse book trailer at the end of my review. Try and wait until September:

Here are a few other rave reviews:

Reading Rants
The Book Bench
educating alice

The Storm in the Barn is published by Candlewick in September 2009.

Poetry Friday: e.e. cummings


I’ve loved this poem ever since I was a kid. Somehow I think the picture fits.

anyone lived in a pretty how town… – by e. e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

(Poem from Poetry Foundation. Photo from Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr)