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The Children's Blizzard (2021)

by Melanie Benjamin

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17625121,953 (3.95)3
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Wow, this was a fast paced read, with the action moving between sisters and schoolteachers Raina and Gerda, a newspaperman named Gavin Woodson, a young girl named Anette and bar owner Ollie Tennant. Covering the Nebraska and Dakota Territories, the January 1888 blizzard, nicknamed the Children's Blizzard because so many were lost in and near their schoolhouses, was fierce. Much like the Armistice Day blizzard my dad used to tell me about, the day started unseasonable warm for January. People ran errands and didn't dress for the normal cold weather of January. Parts of this were just horrifying, the author relied on other books and newspapers of the time, to create multi dimensional characters from the stories of real tragedy from that day. It wound up being a better read that I thought it was going to be. ( )
  ethel55 | Jul 9, 2021 |
Melanie Benjamin turns her historical eye on an historical incident instead of an historical person in this novel of the horrific blizzard that struck eastern Nebraska and the Dakotas in 1888
Benjamin contrasts the stories of two sisters, Raina and Gerda Olsen, one who teaches in Nebraska and the other in the Dakotas. As is usually the case on the plains, these sisters, only teenagers themselves, are thrust into a horrific situation when the storm hit. The decisions they make will affect the rest of their lives – one a hero and the other an outcast.
Benjamin’s description of the storm and the desperate flight of the teachers and their charges to safety are gripping and realistic, but the good/bad contrast between the two sisters is a bit over wrought. And unbelievable.
I received this book from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  etxgardener | Jun 28, 2021 |
Based on the actual tragic blizzard of the late 1880's, the plot of this book was interesting. However, the writing style lent itself more to skimming than reading every word. Several characters take center stage: two sisters both working as young school teachers not much older than their pupils, a young mother who would rather be in Minneapolis than the prairie, a young girl who was "sold" by her own mother to work in the home of another, a journalist from New York who has been sent to the midwest to write glowing stories of the beautiful prairie, and a black man who owns a tavern. Part of the problem might be that there are two many characters to successfully tie together.

I did enjoy the ending of the book which projected far in the future to see what happened to the sisters. One sister who was always the leader winds up in disgrace for her handling of the students, and the younger one becomes a hero. Wish I had liked it better. Almost written as it could be a young adult novel.

The scenes of the blizzard seem realistic ( )
  maryreinert | Jun 10, 2021 |
The blizzard of January 12, 1888, which swept across the Great Plains of southeast South Dakota and Nebraska, was a sinister and cruel storm. After so many bitingly cold days, this one started out with a reprieve in temperatures and winds. Just as the school day was coming to a close, Mother Nature unleashed her fury and slammed the land and all there upon it, throwing every creature into a hellish storm. This is the story of the people of those lands and the hardships which they endured in everyday living. It is also about the young teachers who had to make the difficult decisions to either send off their charges with the hope that they'll beat the storm and make it home safely or conversely decide to hold them at the school until it was safe to leave. This was a heart-wrenching tale which begged to be told.

Author Melanie Benjamin has exquisitely crafted a moving tale of this horrific storm and those who endured it. The storm event described is of a real moment in history. Ms. Benjamin wove the narratives of several protagonists who were derived straight from her imagination yet were also loosely based on real people who lived through this historic event. Her character development is wonderfully formed and her scene settings rather cinematic. One feels the sting of sleet pummeling an unprotected face as they struggle to catch their breath in a 60 mile-an-hour biting wind. The burn of frostbitten nose and ears is searingly painful and the loss of a loved one caught out in the storm causes an inconsolable ache to the heart. It was easy to be caught up into this story as the delivery of it was beautifully rendered. Well done Ms. Benjamin! ( )
  KateBaxter | May 26, 2021 |
It's a warm spring-like day on January 12, 1888, in the Dakota Territory. There has been a log, cold spell and today was welcomed by most school children wearing lighter clothes. Little was known about weather forecasting but a brutal storm was headed their way.

Two very young teachers, Raina (16) and her sister, Gerda (18) Olsen, have to make important decisions about the children when the storm hits during the afternoon. They are teaching in different areas of the Dakota Territory but all will experience hardships with pain and fear.

This novel is dark and sometimes troubling. Melanie Benjamin does a great job of portraying the innocence of the children, the relationships between the teachers and the children, the side stories involving households, parents, and various personalities. It all seemed so real to me and I didn't want to put the book down. I never lost my interest and can't wait to read another novel by this author. ( )
  pegmcdaniel | Apr 16, 2021 |
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They came on boats, on trains, great unceasing waves of them--the poor, the disenfranchised, the seekers, the dreamers.
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...choice and opportunity were not the uncomplicated gifts most people thought they were.
City dirt was just dirtier than country dirt, it just was.
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