Publisher and Publication Date: Delacorte Press. January 12, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Format: Advanced reader copy, e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of American history.
Melanie Benjamin website
Link to pre-order the book at Amazon
In history, The Children’s Blizzard is also called the Schoolhouse Blizzard.
The event happened January 12-13, 1888.
There was snow and cold temperatures in the North and Central Great Plains. Then, they had a day of warmth. Schoolchildren went to school with less winter clothing because it was warmer. The blizzard began while they were at school and just before the school day ended.
The story is compiled from survivor stories.
The main characters are two sisters who are teachers: Gerda and Raina Olsen. Anette Pedersen, a servant girl living in the home of a farmer and his family. Gavin Woodson, a newspaper writer.
I’d first heard of the Children’s Blizzard referenced to in other stories and historical articles. This is the first book I’ve read about the event.
Several reasons why I love this story.
1. The main characters have personal stories. The stories of the young females impacted me the most. A few of the topics explored are young women had few opportunities for employment and they didn’t want to loose their job. Young women were often dreamy and naïve about romantic relationships. Men took advantage of young women and girls who were alone (this still happens). The teachers on the prairie were often young, lonely, homesick, inexperienced, and not much older than the students.
2. I learned what kind of weather predictions were available. I learned how weather reports were examined and reported. I learned how this particular blizzard developed.
3. A minor character, but no less important, is an African American business owner who has a family. He and his family are impacted by the blizzard. He takes action to find his children and help. I saw through his eyes how a black man was seen and treated in the Midwest during the late 19th century. I’d love to see this man have his own story.
4. The story doesn’t stop when the blizzard ends. The story continues post blizzard.
5. I feel this story matters. One reason is it shows a significant history that changed the lives of people who had not lived in America long. This area had first generation people from Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. These people were learning to live in a new land and create a life in the Upper Midwest. English was not their first language. In the story, Raina remarks she cannot speak her native language to the students even though they too speak the same language. I can better understand how they felt. I have empathy for their plight.
6. The Children’s Blizzard is a story I became apart of from the first page.
7. Several themes are explored: domestic violence, child abuse, anger, bitterness, perseverance, courage, and compassion.