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The Children's Blizzard

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  7,047 Ratings  ·  812 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
Kindle Edition, 3rd edition, 336 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published November 1st 2004)
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Sep 27, 2007 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"After that day, the sky never looked the same."
This is another book I read because it is required reading for one of the first year writing seminars I am the librarian for. (No, the librarians are not required to read along, I just like to.)

This is the story of the sudden, devastating blizzard that came up almost without warning across the plains in January 1888. It came a few years after "the long winter" of Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood.

Laskin weaves together historical accounts from newly
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
Dec 14, 2015 Poiema rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: history
This book was reviewed in our local newspaper several years ago, and I cut out the article thinking it would be an interesting read. I happened upon it in a museum bookstore, recognized the title, and brought it home. I live in Nebraska, the setting for this terrible and true weather story and I had heard of the blizzard of 1888 when I took a tour of our state capitol some years back. I seem to remember there is some art work depicting this tragic event in the capitol building.

The author is meti
Nov 29, 2009 skein rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2-star
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
Jan 13, 2009 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2017 Grumpus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have had this on my to-read shelf forever. While the premise sounded appealing, less than stellar reviews kept it low on my list. Note to self, go with your gut feelings. While searching the library for my next read, I discovered this was available while other newer releases of interest had many holds. This is how I came to bring it home.

First off, I want to mention that it seemed eerie to be reading this on the January dates in which this event took place nearly 130 years ago. Understanding
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
Dec 06, 2008 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2012 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2015 Linda Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
"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
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
Nov 25, 2008 Karla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
 ☆☽ 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
Winter Sophia Rose
Fascinating, Compelling, Mesmerizing, Shocking & Riveting! An Interesting Read! I Loved It!
Sep 13, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2013 Margie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Oakes
May 26, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
Mar 01, 2012 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
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
Feb 15, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Re-Read 2016 A horrible day for those living on the prairies of the United States. The day though it started out warm, became a tragedy when a blizzard hit while the children of those states were walking home from school. If it hadn't been for the bravery of some of the teachers in those one room school houses, teachers who were as young as 16, many more children would have died. I first heard about this blizzard on a television show, I then read a fictionalized toned down story in a children's ...more
Janna Craig
Jan 28, 2015 Janna Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a fairly strict rule about reading non-fiction: it better be history-related and it better be fascinating. The Children's Blizzard: check and check. It's the story of an insanely unexpected and severe blizzard in the Dakotas/Minnesota/Iowa area in the late 1880s that resulted in hundreds of deaths, a significant chunk of them being children on their way home from school (I know, super uplifting, right?). I first picked it up b/c I had seen someone mention it on Facebook and I thought it m ...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.

Mar 13, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
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
On January 12, 1888, a blizzard broke over the center of the North American continent.

The morning of January 12, 1888 dawned bright across the prairies of the Dakotas and Nebraska. It was the warmest day the inhabitants had seen since November. The children headed off to school and farmers headed out to tend to livestock, who had been cooped up over the long winter. Little did they know that by noon, a front would roll in causing drastic temperature drops and one of the worst blizzards in Amer
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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
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