I've just had the good fortune to read an advance reading copy of Matt Phelan's soon to be released graphic novel The Storm In The Barn. I believe I've mentioned here before that I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels, but this one really drew me in with its subject matter, pacing, and high level of suspense. Set in Kansas in 1937, The Storm In The Barn tells the story of eleven year old Jack Clark who hasn't known rain in years as his family is struggling with the effects of the Dust Bowl. With a clumsy nature and no family farm to contribute to, Jack feels he is a failure to his father. Tensions run high in his town, and Jack is often the victim of bullies. Is he also a victim of "dust dementia" when he sees a sinister rain-like figure in a neighbor's abandoned barn? The historical details, from the clothing and cars in the illustrations, to the references to the Oz books popular in the 1930s give The Storm in the Barn a feeling of authenticity.
While it is a strong book to be read on its own by 9 to 13 year olds, I think it would be a great resource to accompany study of the Dust Bowl Days or a reading of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. It is a timely topic of study as reckless, market-driven farming practices were in large part responsible for the devastation. For readers thirsty for more on the topic after reading The Storm In The Barn, I recommend Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.