What I’m Reading: The Children’s Blizzard

You all know I love historical reading either fiction or non-fiction as long as there is a story to it.  So you can imagine when I saw this book, The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin, I put it on my waitlist.

Some of my favorite books happen on the prairie.  They happen with children and they happen with school teachers.  For much of my life, I always thought I was born in the wrong generation.  I always dreamed myself to be a teacher in a remote area in a one-room schoolhouse.  So when books come up that have anything to do with any of those themes, I grab them up.

This book does not romanticize teaching on the prairie in a one-room schoolhouse at all.   This book showed the reality and the terrible thing that happened when a historical blizzard hit just at the time schoolchildren were done with the day and going home.

The author does a good job telling how the blizzard affected many.  It’s so sad that this happened and is a part of our American history.

Here’s what Amazon had to say:
The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats—leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers—one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there—or whose land it originally was.

At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today—because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

Amazon readers give the book 4.4 stars.  I think I’d agree with that rating.

You can find the book HERE on Amazon.

9 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: The Children’s Blizzard”

    1. Judirh Fairchild

      I read A similar story about that blizzard. It was written by the granddaughter of a teacher who survived with her students. What a terrifying thing that happened.

  1. Thank-you for all your excellent book recommendations……while reading the excerpts of this book I was reminded of ” The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder….a favorite author.

  2. I won a copy of this book on Goodreads but have yet to read it. My ‘books to read’ list on the local library site is WAAYY too long (over 400!!!) and I’ve always got several on hold. I figure one of these days when I go outta town, I’ll take that one with me.

  3. The book sounds good. I read the nonfiction book about this event. It is called The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin. It was an interesting read.

  4. I read this book several years ago. It was very well written, the explanation of the development of weather measurements and stations was fascinating. The author explored the family relationships, the reasons behind why so many children were caught out in the blizzard, how some of them survived and others did not, why some adults died and some lived. The overall tone of the book was hopeful, not depressingly sad over the death of so many children. I would read this book again. It was such a wonderful, true portrayal of an actual event in American history.

    1. P.S. I read the David Laskin book, not the Melanie Benjamin book. Sorry for any confusion. Didn’t realize there were two books on the same subject, different authors.

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