The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow, this was such an emotional journey! The children’s blizzard of 1888 is an event that I was aware of, but reading about it has brought on an entirely new view of the horrors and devastation brought on by this snowstorm.

This was a story that was based in fact on the blizzard alone. The characters and events that transpired are completely fictional, but the author used real events to inspire her story. It is a character-rich story and takes a bit to get to know each person and how they fit into the story.

I really liked that the author broke the book into two portions. There is the blizzard section and then the aftermath. The blizzard portion follows each character’s decisions on how to survive the storm. With so many characters, one thing that I really liked was that there were a variety of situations to read about. People that were in the safety of buildings had to leave to find family, children, animals, etc. Schools that were supposed to be safe had windows blown in, requiring everyone to leave. Some people were outside, completely caught off-guard.

Each character’s story really brought the situation to life. I was cold reading this book. Like, I literally needed extra blankets. The author does an amazing job of making the reader understand how these characters feel in this weather. It was done wonderfully.

The second portion of the book follows the aftermath of the storm. I was so pleased that this was part of the story. Following the characters once the storm was over really solidified the life-long effects of the blizzard.

Overall, I really loved this story. I got the chance to get to know so many characters and really understand so much about them.

Content Warnings:

Child abuse, child neglect, child death.

To Read or Not To Read:

I would recommend The Children’s Blizzard to readers that are looking for a poignant story that brings you to a fantasy world that speaks to our culture and relationships with others.

Where to Find This Book:

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin publishes on January 12, 2021, and is available at these sites.

Amazon ~ Goodreads

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife reveals a little-known story of courage on the prairie: the freak blizzard that struck the Great Plains, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders–especially their children.

The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a long cold spell, 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 just the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard struck 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, the novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers–one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who 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 is Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed immigrants to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told them 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.

Just the Facts:

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 368 
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pub Date: January 12, 2021

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I was provided a gifted copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.

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