Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Year of the Historical: Storm in the Barn

The Storm in the BarnThe Storm in the Barn Matt Phelan

This largely wordless graphic novel shows Jack, a young boy growing up in Dust Bowl Kansas. He can't help on the farm that's not growing anything. His sister is very ill with dust pneumonia, and the town bullies keep beating him up. In this bleak landscape, he thinks he might be seeing something in the neighbor's abandoned barn...

I liked this and I didn't. It's a fantasy. There are huge not-true fantastical elements to this. And... as a story, it didn't really work for me. In general, I'm ok with attributing various historical events to supernatural reasons (Hello Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell! Or Soulless!) but it just didn't work here and I can't quite put my finger on why.

That said, it is beautiful book.  The muted, hazy pictures of brown, brown, brown, some muddy blue really convey the bleakness of the landscape and all that dust dust dust. When someone's telling a story or a memory, something that doesn't take place in the dust, colors become bright and lines crisp. Then it's back to the hazy endless brown. I could look at this book for hours.

Also, I love the juxtaposition of Ozma of Oz, being stranded on the desert, being far from Kansas. Only Jack's Kansas is the Endless Desert. My only question is WHY is there no mention in the book about where these long quotations come from? It doesn't necessarily have to be in the story, but you'd think it would appear on the copyright page (such as "Quotations from Ozma of Oz (c) L. Frank Baum.") The closest we get is when the author's note says that the Wizard of Oz movie would come out two years after this book comes place.

Book Provided by... my local library

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