The Children’s Blizzard
by Melanie Benjamin
Publication date: January 12, 2021 by Delacorte Press
Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Historical Fiction
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?
I went into this book hesitantly. I didn’t want to read yet another book about a tragedy. With that being said, the book is exquisitely written. There is a general awareness of the hardships that early homesteaders experienced but this story was beyond anything I had heard of previously. The author captures the reader immediately and I found myself tense with anticipation and trepidation as I read. It was an eye-opening read that made me more conscious of the level of responsibilities that 16-18 year old teachers had. People aren’t normally trained to handle dire situations and this book showcases examples of how individuals base decisions on their own experiences and needs. Benjamin takes the characters she so expertly develops and leads the reader through how their decisions impacted the lives of so many others. It was heart wrenching to read about the storm and its aftermath. This book will make you feel a torrent of emotions. In the end, it is a wonderful tribute to the families who suffered so much on the Great Plains, especially the children.
I received an advanced copy of this title via NetGalley.