The Children's Blizzard

The Children's Blizzard

Book - 2004 | 1st ed.
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The gripping story of an epic prairie snowstorm that killed hundreds of newly arrived settlers and cast a shadow on the promise of the American frontier.

January 12, 1888, began as an unseasonably warm morning across Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, the weather so mild that children walked to school without coats and gloves. But that afternoon, without warning, the atmosphere suddenly, violently changed. One moment the air was calm; the next the sky exploded in a raging chaos of horizontal snow and hurricane-force winds. Temperatures plunged as an unprecedented cold front ripped through the center of the continent.

By Friday morning, January 13, some five hundred people lay dead on the drifted prairie, many of them children who had perished on their way home from country schools. In a few terrifying hours, the hopes of the pioneers had been blasted by the bitter realities of their harsh environment. Recent immigrants from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and the Ukraine learned that their free homestead was not a paradise but a hard, unforgiving place governed by natural forces they neither understood nor controlled.

With the storm as its dramatic, heartbreaking focal point, The Children's Blizzard captures this pivotal moment in American history by tracing the stories of five families who were forever changed that day. Drawing on family interviews and memoirs, as well as hundreds of contemporary accounts, David Laskin creates an intimate picture of the men, women, and children who made choices they would regret as long as they lived. Here too is a meticulous account of the evolution of the storm and the vain struggle of government forecasters to track its progress.

The blizzard of January 12, 1888, is still remembered on the prairie. Children fled that day while their teachers screamed into the relentless roar. Husbands staggered into the blinding wind in search of wives. Fathers collapsed while trying to drag their children to safety. In telling the story of this meteorological catastrophe, the deadliest blizzard ever to hit the prairie states, David Laskin has produced a masterful portrait of a tragic crucible in the settlement of the American heartland.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, c2004.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780060520755
Branch Call Number: 977.031 LASKIN
Characteristics: ix, 307 p. : map ; 24 cm.


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Jul 27, 2017

Very sad read. Hard to get through at times.

HCL_staff_reviews Feb 07, 2017

Recounts the January 1888 blizzard that caught the settlers in the upper Midwest totally by surprise. The day started unseasonably warm after a long cold spell, with children attending school in light jackets and many farmers working out in the fields. The blizzard struck just as the children were leaving school, resulting in the deaths of many children. The author uses family interviews, letters, memoirs, and current meteorology theory to create an interesting read.

Mar 10, 2016

Laskin confuses the blizzard of 1888 with the "hard winter" written about by Laura Ingalls Wilder in "The Long Winter."

This is the blizzard Wilder wrote of in "The First Four Years."

Jul 12, 2012

A comment on the hubris of people in the 19th Century (mirrored by the hubris of people in this one) when it came to nature and the weather. And it just goes to show how one miscalculation can have unforeseen and tragic consequences.

Jan 17, 2012

I wonder whether this is the same blizzard Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about....

Oct 06, 2011

This book was interesting to me because I was unfamiliar with the horrendous blizzard that hit Nebraska, the Dakotas and Minnesota in 1888. I appreciate the research the author did to educate the rest of us. However, since I am not interested in the intricacies of weather, some of the chapters were not interesting to me. I appreciated the human interest stories but because the author kept jumping from one story to another and back again, I had a hard time remembering who was who sometimes. And I was puzzled and saddened by the lack of any reporting of the Native American population and how the blizzard affected them. However any reader will be affected by the grief and mourning that accompanied the blizzard of 1888.

Apr 18, 2011

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is a fascinating book about a powerful, freak blizzard that occurred in the upper Midwest of America on January 12, 1888. I found this an extremely moving, well researched book that caught and held my attention from cover to cover.

The author follows a few families that settled in this area that encompassed the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. Giving us the history and background of these families made what they endured through this blizzard all the more touching. Striking quickly and deadly, the blizzard became known as the Children’s Blizzard as so many school children were caught up in it. Either being stranded at school with their teachers or being sent out to find their way home. What happened to these children is both heart rending and, at times, miraculous.

Details on the scientific background of weather forecasting is given in simple terms which I found readable and helped to move the story forward. I was surprised at the knowledge that they did have in the 1880’s, but with a storm that approached so rapidly and was so severe, there really appeared to be little the Weather Bureau could do. Of course, that didn’t appear to stop a certain amount of fact spinning in the days immediately after this tragedy.

An interesting book that once more gives proof that nature should always be respected and when dealing with weather, it’s better to err on the side of caution.


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