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Paperback The Children's Blizzard Book

ISBN: 0060520760

The Children's Blizzard

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Good

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Customer Reviews

5 ratings

An underrated gem--discover it for yourself!

I bought this book at the airport when I needed reading material, and it was a wonderful surprise! I can't believe that I'd never heard of it before! I'm an avid nonfiction reader, and I love survival/adventure stories like 'The Worst Journey in the World,' 'Into Thin Air,' 'The Wreck of the Medusa,' and 'The Whaleship Essex.' 'The Children's Blizzard' has all the elements to make it a genre classic! The first third of the book is spent putting the storm into historical, cultural, and scientific context, and readers who want fast action may become impatient. The effect of all this discussion is cumulative, however. The book--and the suspense--really sneaks up on you; I read each chapter with a steadily growing sense of dismay and fear. By the time the snow started falling, I was enthralled. The historical information also serves to humanize--and better dramatize--the event. Mr. Laskin treats the immigrant pioneers, and their hardships, with dignity and respect. I never felt that the author was exploiting the tragedy for artistic or professional purposes. The subjects are difficult for modern readers to relate to--profoundly religious, parochial, Scandinavian, agrarian, (mostly) poor. Many writers would be tempted to either romanticize or condescend them. Laskin tries to let them speak for themselves. Stylistically, I found the book to be very well-written. The language is clear, precise, and elegant. Lastly, some reviewers found the scientific explanation of the storm and the history of weather forecasting to be tedious, but I enjoyed all of it! It's always nice when an author gives his/her audience credit for having a brain. I love books that I can learn things from, and this book was full of informative treats! Mr. Laskin makes the science very accessible to the layperson. 'The Children's Blizzard' is a gem!

A PERFECT Non-fiction Weather Book!

I ordered this book as soon as it came out; I have a David Laskin book written a few years ago, and it's really good. But THIS BOOK- well, I would have to say that it's in my Top 10 of Favorite Books, and that's saying a lot, because I breathe books as though they were air....if I couldn't read, I would die. FANTASTIC book. The imagery; the reality of those lives on the Plains, depending as they did upon things that to us today would seem quite trivial, with all of our modern conveniences. And then, from the frigid HELLS of the Siberian and Canadian Arctic, comes sweeping down a 200 year blizzard upon them, no warning, no real protection, and so quickly building into a maelstrom of blinding, stinging and freezing on contact with skin and all else, that many, if not most of the schoolchildren whose schools were released around the same time, just didn't stand a chance, even the ones who lived so close to the schoolhouse that in good weather, they could see it from home. This book cries out to be read......a piece of American history that brings home to us what winters could be like to live through, on the Great American Plains, and told in a way that you can visualize the true tale of the families, handing down the story from generation through generation, we hope in front of a cozy fire in the hearth. Touché, David Laskin!

a book to make you count your blessings!

This book was a traumatic read for me for several reasons. First off, my family is from Norway and some of them came over to the United States at this time period and at the turn of the century. They came for the same reasons that Laskin mentioned in his book: Norway is gorgeous, but it's lands were being used without the knowledge we have today of the need to replenish and rest the land. My ancestors came because of the promise of jobs, and of freedom, and of better lives for their children. The fact that so many children were caught in this unexpected blizzard is the other reason this was hard for me to read. All of those mothers who have children and grandchildren, can place themselves in the place of the mothers whose children were lost in this very strange storm. I cannot imagine the agony of these mothers, and of the teachers who did what they thought was best for the children. It's easy in hindsight to say that the teachers should have done 'this', and that the weather forecasters were lax in their jobs...but so little was known not just of the vagaries of weather in that part of the United States, but how to get this information to those who needed it most. Even had the weather forecasters predicted this storm 24 hours before it happened, the chances that it would have reached the towns and individuals on the Dakota praries in time to prevent the deaths were slim at best. I read this book in less than two days, and I found it as mesmerizing as "Issac's Storm", which I also read years ago. Perhaps it's because my own family were Norwegian and pioneers, though I don't think they were caught in this as they settled in Minnesota and Illinois and Utah. There was one light note in this book that cracked me up. Laskin talked about the boys in one town who had a new and rather inept teacher. These boys would read far ahead of the teacher in their books, and then stump him with questions he did not know the answers too. Laskin also stated that many unaware teachers got literally picked up by the bigger boys and deposited outside the schoolhouse, which those boys then locked. Laskin said occasionally the schoolchildren had to be smoked out (by blocking the chimney). Since my great-great aunts (3) were teachers and one was a principal in Illinois this made me curious as to whether they experienced any of these stunts. Will have to check the geneaology. This was a good book, a very poignant one. I wish Laskin had been able to include more writings of the pioneers who lived through this, though I am sure more of them would have broken my heart. We are so lucky to live in a day and age where our children are mostly safe from weather and disease through vaccines. It's only human predators we have to watch for now. Karen L. Sadler

A must for history and weather fans

Like Isaac's Storm (Erik Larson) before it, The Children's Blizzard takes us into a nearly forgotton place in American history and slaps us with the almost casual brutality of life before modern meteorology. David Laskin has researched the subject of the blizzard of 1888 in meticulous fashion and we can't help but be impressed with his scholarship. Laskin has previously written on meteorology and he has a way of making the capricious nature of the atmosphere highly accessible. Readers should be warned that Laskin is unsparing in his depiction of the death by exposure of children trapped in the storm. If you've read "To Build a Fire" by Jack London (whom he credits) you'll have a small idea of what these children go through. Images will haunt you: Parents dragging their frozen children into the house to thaw by the fire so their contorted bodies will fit into tiny coffins. Even those who survive must endure gruesome injuries. This is history and it must be told. But one wonders what ever made these settlers think such a life was worth the hardships. It was a rare family that had not lost children, even before the great blizzard. A minor criticism of The Children's Blizzard is its tendency, especially early, to focus on historical minutiae. Emphasis on the life of plains settlers before they left Europe drags down the early narrative. Recommended, but not for the easily disturbed reader.
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