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The Children's Blizzard

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  9,162 ratings  ·  1,071 reviews
A masterful portrait of a tragic crucible in the settlement of the American heartland - the 'Children's Blizzard' of 1888.

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
Paperback, 307 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published November 1st 2004)
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Carrie Anna's Blizzard by Alison Hart is a great book that deals with this storm. It's aimed at upper elementary or lower middle school readers and is a much…moreAnna's Blizzard by Alison Hart is a great book that deals with this storm. It's aimed at upper elementary or lower middle school readers and is a much kinder story that still drives home how dangerous this storm was. (less)

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  9,162 ratings  ·  1,071 reviews

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May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone; Americans Especially
Even worse than the whiteout was the agony of his eyes when he tried to see through the snow. The fine hard pellets blew into his eyes and made them water. Walter cried and the snow mixed with his tears until it formed a crust between the upper and lower lids. Instinctively he reached up to brush the crust away with the back of his hand. Soon his eyeballs were inflamed, which further distorted his vision. The pain became so acute that it felt better to let the ice crust build. Tears and blowing ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When he looked up at the sky, Austin saw the snow descend "as if it had slid out of a sack. A hurricane-like wind blew, so that the snow drifted high in the air, and it became terribly cold. Within a few minutes it was as dark as a cellar, and one could not see one's hand in front of one's face."

January 12, 1888 dawned with unseasonably warm temperatures. Children left their winter gear at home, and walked to school in thin cotton dresses and shirtsleeves. Later that afternoon a storm ripped
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
Diane S ☔
Jul 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
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 ...more
Lisa Vegan
Thanks to Goodreads friend Melki I have an owned copy that I could read at my leisure. I was able to return a less than pleasant to read library copy as soon as I received it. It was such a pleasure to read a basically pristine copy. The only times I normally get to do that is when I manage to get a new book in the first batch the library lends out.

So, I thought this was going to be a 5 star book for me but it wasn’t. I did really like it and I’m glad I read it. It’s a 3 star book. I’m upping
Jul 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Julie  Durnell
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was an astonishing history and chronicle of this monstrous blizzard in 1888. The author goes in depth to the emigrant Homesteading stories and background of the Signal Corps now known as the National Weather Service. It is fascinating reading but left me heavy hearted at the toll of lives lost, so many of them children.
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
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, disaster
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
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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
The event: blizzard of the centuryyyyy! ("-y! -y! -y! -y!")
The place: the US Great Plains, but mostly what's now the Dakotas, bless them.
The time: the weird and wild 19th century.
The victims: between 200 and 1,000 immigrant settlers, many of them children, hence with the calling of this blizzard The School Children's Blizzard. Also the nascent National Weather Service, who got blamed for everything.

(Content warning, in case it's not clear: child death).

There's quite a bit of historical
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, disaster
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
Apr 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry to say this book really didn't work for me. For 140 pages, it's mostly meteorology and meteorological history. 140 pages of science, the drop in temperature how many degrees, in how many minutes, how barometric pressure affects weather patterns, what is a cold wave, how snow particles are affected by wind. I found it incredibly tough reading, distracting me and putting me off from the human part of the story, which is what I cared about. Imagine the movie "A Perfect Storm" if it had ...more
Linda Johnson
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I would actually rate this 2.5 if possible. An interesting, albeit tragic story, is turned into a boring, redundant mess that continuously quotes wind velocity and temperatures ad nauseam. It is the human element which is worth repeating.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am never going to complain about a Midwest winter storm again, after reading this horrifying account of an actual blizzard that hit the Great Plains in 1988, killing scores of people, many of them children, on their way home from school. Well-researched.
Niki (nikilovestoread)
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is very difficult for me to rate and review. I really just don't know what I think of it because there were parts of it that I really enjoyed and parts of it I really didn't. I really enjoyed the first about 100 pages that talk a lot about the immigrants who lived in the area at the time of the 1888 blizzard and where they came from and why. (5 stars) Then, the author started describing, in long, agonizing depth, what happened in the atmosphere to create this horrible blizzard. ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-american
Gripping! And a good historical account.
K.J. Gillenwater
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love reading about tragedies. This book caught my eye due to the title and the subject matter. A horrible blizzard in the 1800s killed and maimed many children (and adults) all across the middle of our country. It reminded me a lot of my favorite book in the Little House series, The Long Winter....and then I found out while reading "The Children's Blizzard" that Ingalls Wilder wrote about this SAME storm. Call me even more intrigued!

Mr. Laskin did an amazing job researching this book. He
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
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Re-Read 2019
Always an interesting book to read, the outcome is horrible, but still a part of history that deserves to be recognized for nothing else than remembering those who lost their lives on the prairies that day.

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
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