Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Children's Blizzard ” as Want to Read:
The Children's Blizzard
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Children's Blizzard

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  5,981 ratings  ·  693 reviews
Thousands of impoverished Northern European immigrants were promised that the prairie offered "land, freedom, and hope." The disastrous blizzard of 1888 revealed that their free homestead was not a paradise but a hard, unforgiving place governed by natural forces they neither understood nor controlled, and America’s heartland would never be the same.

This P.S. edition featu
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published November 1st 2004)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Children's Blizzard, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Children's Blizzard

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This is a powerful story, of an event little known outside the Upper Midwest. This is the story of a freak blizzard of incredible intensity, that left hundreds dead, many of them school children trying to make their way home from country schools.

I've always been interested in the late 1800's, perhaps because of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was young. The stories of the families told here are very moving. The technical information about the formation of the weather system occasionally made
In The Children’s Blizzard David Laskin explores the January 12, 1888 ‘children’s blizzard’ which devastated an area of the United States then known as the Dakota Territory. It came to be known by this unfortunate name because of the high number of its youthful victims.

Laskin begins back in the ‘Old World’ and tells of all the sacrifices, heartaches and struggles endured by the hardy folk who settled the Dakota Territory. They had already left everything behind, spent all they had, lost children
I applaud Laskin for his effort - it must be hard work to take an account of the scariest blizzard ever and turn it into a sloppy, sodden, boring mess.

The blatant, sloppy mistakes early on were my first clue that all was not quite right in the state of Denmark. (For instance! Laskin quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter and mis-identifies one of the schoolgirls as Laura's sister, Mary. No, dipshit - Mary was blind and she stayed at home. Reading comprehension is key.)

... Laskin is
Diane S.✨
I have heard of this before. the blizzard that killed over 200 children and adults Settlers coming from Europe to the Dakotas for the opportunity to own land and for some being able to practice their own religions, such as the Quakers and Mennonites. MAny lost children on the way over in the ships, and many arrived to late to plant for that season and lost children to starvation. MAny had only flour and would make a burnt flour soup, containing only flour and water. Heartbreaking. The relief soc ...more
Children’s Blizzard

This was part of my Winter 2013 DISASTER! Themed read.

I don’t know where to start. You can read about disasters, and frequently, they’re off in remote mountains- the Andes, the Himalayans, etc., and this geographical distance creates a buffer between the reader and the book. You feel terrible for the people going through the ordeal, you can sympathize with their pain, but even if you’ve been in mountains it’s hard to imagine the remoteness and the vastness of some of those ec
I have come to realize that, while most of what I read is fiction, that one of my favorite kind of books are non-fiction stories that are written like novels, particularly stories about unknown or underreported events in American history. I'm fascinated by books such as Stewart O'Nan's The Circus Fire, the story of the 1942 Hartford Circus fire and Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven about the fringe extremist Mormon groups. This book was along those lines, and I gobbled it up.

It tells the
"You could hardly see your hand before you or draw your breath and with the intense cold roaring wind and darkness it would appall the stoutest heart." --a farmer describing the 1888 blizzard

Terms I learned while reading this book:

cold stupid: mountaineer slang for the slow reaction times and uncharacteristic peevishness that signal the early stages of hypothermia

paradoxical undressing: the point in late-stage hypothermia in which victims feel so hot that they begin tearing off their clothes and
The topic is fascinating; the research seems to have been thorough. I have given the book a low rating because this is presented as a non-fiction book. Laskin does not indicate in the text when dialogues and monologues are based on fact and when they are a flight of his fancy. He explains in the end notes that his understanding of the victim's culture or faith gives him the right to assign words and thoughts to a dying person. It doesn't. I would be very upset if any of them were my relatives. T ...more
Linda Johnson
This book appealed to me because I grew up in rural North Dakota and survived many a blizzard growing up and also because my ancestors immigrated from Norway, Denmark and Sweden during this time. Boy I bet my grandparents and great grandparents could have told me some stories about this storm!
The Dakotas, Minnesota and Nebraska attracted many immigrants with the promise of fertile farmland. These families struggled making their way to the Great Plains, many losing children along the way, only to
Evanston Public  Library
Does it look like snow outside? Chicagoans are by no means strangers to the extremes of weather. Furious winds, bitter cold, icy roads, piles of snow, massive drifts, endless hours of shoveling, “dibs” on dug-out parking spaces, and the exhaustion in dealing with it all form the list of gripes we all have with winter. But Laskin’s moving account of a spectacular and devastating blizzard on January 12, 1888, followed by a record-breaking cold front will have you thanking your lucky stars you live ...more
The children's blizard of 1888 is a well researched and well written book. On Jan. 12, 1888, the sun came up on a beautiful day with moderating temperatures in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Many children went to scholl without their boots, hats, gloves and warm coats. Mary farmers ventured out to work on projects away from the farms. In the early afternoon, the weather made a dramatic change, from warm and sunny to a blizzard. Many children were either trapped at school or caught in the blizzard as ...more
This story tells of a disastrous blizzard in 1888 which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, many of them school children on the Great Plains (the Dakotas, Nebraska and Missouri). No story is more tragic than that of reading of children dying. The fact that the blizzard erupted when school was in session and so many children were trapped in the elements earned the storm and this book its name.

The day dawned “springlike” after many days of cold weather and most children were sent to scho
Nancy Brady
This is a difficult book to read (because of the details about the people and the events), thus it's a hard book to like. That being said, it is, at times, a compelling read about this once-in-a-lifetime-storm.

The January 12, 1888 blizzard that hit the Midwest, particularly the Dakota territory, came on quickly and was devastating to men, women, children, and animals alike. While meteorological mishaps affected the outcome of this storm, it was not the only thing to blame. Politics certainly pl
Jane Hoppe
David Laskin thoroughly researched the January 12, 1888, blizzard that took so many lives and marked generations of settlers on the Midwest prairie. If you read this book, you'll get to know affected families by reading their stories of immigrating from the old country and homesteading in the Dakota territory. And you'll learn the scientific and political states of meteorology in the late 1800s. You'll learn what pioneer life was like on farms and in towns.

I liked the author's storytelling style
Nov 25, 2008 Karla rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs, weather lovers, genealogists researching the area
This was my second time through reading this book---both times for book clubs. Geez, I wish I retained things better. The only thing I retain is water.
Part of me really enjoyed this book. I found myself really interested in the five families the author concentrated on, their immigration journeys, their decisions to travel to the prairies. But what about the Native Americans? Seems to me that there must have been a sizeable number of them on the prairies and I don't remember a word about them. An
Oh my, this book taught me much about the weather and it's crazy turns and crisis' it can bring on. I feel so for the poor pioneers of Jan. 12, 1888 and what they endured in that blizzard.

Jan. 12, 1888 had started out to be an unseasonably warm day across the Dakotas, Nebraska, Illinois. Children had gone to school either without coats and gloves or very light outer wear. By afternoon of that day the sky exploded into a mess of horizontal snow and tornadic like winds. Temperatures started to plu
Aug 23, 2013 Margie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Margie by: Joan
When I lived in Nebraska, we always heard about the brave young teacher who saved her students by tying them together as they walked to safety. We also heard about the people who froze to death while trying to find their way from their barn to the house, just 50 yards away.

White-out conditions can mean not being able to see your hand in front of your face. This storm hit on a balmy day with such suddenness and fury that people who were outside couldn't find their way in. People who were already
☆ Ruth ☆
A very interesting but tragic event in American history.
This book would have really benefited from good editing! The narrative jumps about too much and gets far too bogged down in technical weather data. There is also a great deal of extraneous information, which I found frustrating. That said if you can cope with these irritations it's worth reading for the human interest and the fascinating historical background details describing the dreadful trials and tribulations of the early settlers on
Another danger that the early settlers to the plains had to worry about---blizzards. Laskin lays out the historical groundwork, and fills it in. Some parts are painful to read, realizing how little was known about frostbite and hypothermia in the 1880's, let alone communications. I was touched by the help and support that families gave to one another. The book especially interested me since I lived in South Dakota in the late 70's, but knew nothing about this particular blizzard.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Children's Blizzard is another one of my favorite non-fiction books. Like Isaac's Storm, it's also another book for weather geeks. This time the weather disaster is the January 12, 1888 blizzard that hit the Great Plains. Since this occurred just 12 years before the Galveston Hurricane, there was present in the national Weather Service infighting, jealousy, and control of information, and another disaster happened without any clear warning sent to the public. Arguably, in this case, even if ...more
"The Children's Blizzard" is a historical account of a blizzard that occurred on the Great Plains in 1888 that has been remembered ever since. It is a mixture of straight historical reporting, weather analysis, medical facts and Ken Burns' style storytelling. It makes for a compelling read, although some parts are better than others.

Obviously, the most compelling aspects of the book are the people, and particularly, the children who were caught in the storm. There are numerous stories about the
Nancy Oakes
In January of 1888, a terrible blizzard, which came to be known as the "Schoolchildren’s Blizzard" blew in across the Nebraska & Dakota Territory prairie. It was so-called because the deaths from the blizzard were largely of children who left school because of the bad weather coming. Sadly, they left "at the moment when the wind shifted and the sky exploded (2)."

Using a wide variety of sources, Laskin has put together this account of that fateful day, but the book is much more than just a r
I am a huge fan of non-fiction reading, and I was super pumped to find this exciting story on a little known part of history at the used book store. As a life-long resident of the mid-west, I am certainly not ignorant to "blizzards" and whiteouts. I know how much they can inconvenience a person in the 21st Century, so I can only imagine what a disaster it was for those living in the late 1800s in their sod houses, reliance on crops they produce, and multi-mile walks to school.

This book was supp
Beth Cato
As a child, I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. I read them each over again times beyond count, but my very favorite was The Long Winter. It accounted how Laura's family and the town of De Smet, South Dakota, struggled to survive a brutal winter of low food and fuel. A morbid book, to be sure--I guess it's no surprise that I've grown up to write post-apocalyptic tales of survival, and I still have a keen interest in historical tales of survival as well.

As I began to r
A very disappointing read given the true nature of the Blizzard of 1888 , which had all the elements of Shakspearean tragedy: a fierce, raging storm descends upon the prairie states at exactly the worst time,in the afternoon of an unseasonably warm day in which many children had gone to school poorly dressed and folks were working in their fields without warm clothing. Added to that was the fact that many of the people afflicted were recent immigrants to the plains, who had had little experience ...more
There's a lot of pain in this book, and how appropriate to read during Holy Week. To be honest I'm skimming over some of the pain--the author is excruciating in detail, and, to his credit, he doesn't forget the emotions that go along with the pain. Laskin's love of weather is apparent in the way he researches and lets a great blizzard grow in the region and in our imaginations. He spends several pages on the electricity ("St. Elmo's fire) and all the other details that allowed such an immense st ...more
Themes: weather, adversity, family, faith, science
Setting: January 1888, Dakota territory, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska

January on the prairie is never exactly balmy. The weather had been very cold all month. Then it warmed up for a while - not a lot, but enough that people seized the chance to get outside and tend to a few neglected chores, repairing the roof, feeding the livestock, bringing in more fuel for the fire, and sending the kids to school. All of which put them into danger.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the settlers who had to endure such hardships each and every day, and then to be struck out of nowhere by a blizzard of this magnitude. Talk about a cruel trick of nature -- balmy weather one minute, and then the next blinding snow, wind that would knock you over, and extreme cold. How desperate those parents must have been not knowing if their children were still at school or struggling home across the prairie! Just today I was feeling in agony be ...more
Amy F
Wow, this was a painful slog.

The information about the victims of the storm and their backstories about their immigration to the midwest was interesting.

However, the vast majority of the book suffers from Too Much Information syndrome. Want to know the mindnumbingly detailed back stories on characters that do nothing to further the story? It's here. How about page after page of info about weather forecasting during the time, or the scientific details of how the weather occured? Here too. It wa
I had never heard of this event until stumbling on this book but was intrigued enough to read it. And can I just say, WOW. While I did get a bit bogged down in the very necessary description of the state of climatology back then and with the political infighting in what passed for the national weather service, the parts of the book (the majority) that described the blizzard and the survivors and victims was riveting. And seriously haunting.
Very well-written historical account.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Asesinatos y Desastres 1 1 Jul 01, 2015 07:46AM  
  • Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894
  • Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
  • The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy
  • The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche
  • Triangle: The Fire That Changed America
  • Firestorm at Peshtigo: A Town, Its People, and the Deadliest Fire in American History
  • Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum
  • Curse Of The Narrows
  • To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire
  • When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes
  • The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco
  • Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
  • The Great Hurricane: 1938
  • Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier
  • Ordeal by Hunger: the Story of the Donner Party
  • A Crack in the Edge of the World
  • Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West
  • Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Great Neck, New York, I grew up hearing stories that my immigrant Jewish grandparents told about the “old country” (Russia) that they left at the turn of the last century. When I was a teenager, my mother’s parents began making yearly trips to visit our relatives in Israel, and stories about the Israeli family sifted down to me as well. What I never heard growing up ...more
More about David Laskin...
The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century The Long Way Home Rains All the Time: A Connoisseur's History of Weather in the Pacific Northwest Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals

Share This Book

“Gro Rollag was no beauty, but she was a strong capable young woman with a long face, prominent cheekbones, high forehead, and a kindly intelligent look in her rather narrow eyes. According to family lore, she was not the most conscientious housekeeper because she preferred reading to housework. A love of books and reading ran in the family. Of all the possessions they were forced to sell or leave behind in Norway, what the Rollags remembered with deepest regret was the library they inherited from an eighteenth-century ancestor - lovely old books sold to pay for their passage to America.” 1 likes
“hot and dry early that year, and by the Fourth of July the grass was parched and brown and stubby. The young Teddy Roosevelt, traveling through the north part of Dakota Territory on the way to his ranches near Medora, told a newspaper reporter in mid-July that “Between the drouth, the” 0 likes
More quotes…