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Author: Matt Phelan

Illustrator: Matt Phelan

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Publisher: Candlewick,

Material: hard cover

Summary: It is a miserable summer for Jack Clark and his family. As if the parched land and dying cattle and "dust dementia" aren't enough, Jack is the target of local bullies and his dad's frustration. Jack spots something in the Talbot's Barn, but that's off limits. Since when has that ever stopped a young boy? But what if it turns out to be bigger than him? This is a lightly-texted graphic novel that offers an historical fiction account of the Dust Bowl in Kansas (1937).

Type of Reading: independent reading, interactive reading, read aloud book, remedial reader

Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 9 and up

Interest Level: 8 and Up

Reading Level: 2.3

Age of Child: Read with and by a 9-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: At first my daughter rushed through the panels, but after we started adding some out-loud reading she started to pay closer attention to the visual story as it unfolded. The "evil" rain captivated her.

Adult Reader Reaction: Fabulous. I often have a hard time with wordless books, but this was an excellent balance ... and an incredibly valuable way to teach history to kids. The mix of full-color, partial, and black-and-white sketches add depth to the story and helped illustrate (no pun intended) the starkness of the time. I thought the dad was overdone, but I suspect he fit with the times and views of 1937.

Pros: This graphic novel offers young readers and dormant readers a wonderful way to grasp US history.

Cons: None, really. I would liked to have had a short bibliography of other sources where young readers could learn more.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a book you can read cover to cover and then leaf through again.


Educational Themes: Even with few words, there is a lot to explore in this book. It offers history, insight into the midwest in the 1930s, and how people deal with conflict or stress. There is a bullying element, but it is really secondary to the other options in educational content. For kids who are very visual, it is a chance to look at images and talk about what you see (feelings, what do you think they're thinking, etc)

Notes: A Reading Tub® volunteer submitted this review. The book is in her personal library.

Literary Categories: Fiction - graphic novel, 1930s, historical fiction, life lessons, fables and folklore, family, middle grade

Date(s) Reviewed: September 2011, August 2015

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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