Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Children's Blizzard

The Children's Blizzard. David Laskin. 2004. 307 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: On January 12, 1888, a blizzrd broke over the center of the North American continent.

First sentence from chapter one: Land, freedom, and hope.

Premise/plot: The Children's Blizzard is a nonfiction account of the 'Children's Blizzard' of 1888. (There were many long, hard winters--each has a nickname of its own in the history books. In 1888, there was a blizzard that took everyone by surprise and proved devastating.) Laskin's approach is compelling. It is an account of the pioneer families from multiple states; it is an account of the weather forecasters (aka indication officers) working/observing at the time; it is an account of the storm itself; it is an account of what happens to the body when exposed to cold and snow. (Perhaps the part that was the most uncomfortable to read was the account of what happens to your cells and organs--your body--as they freeze.)

The first two chapters introduce readers to the PEOPLE, the pioneers, we'll be following. Some he traces from Europe--Norway, Ukraine, etc.--all the way to the midwest. These seventy-five pages are key I think to having a personal touch to the story.

The third chapter, "Disturbance" is all science-y and weather-related. What causes cold fronts? What causes blizzards?

The fourth and fifth chapter focuses on the forecasters--or indication officers--the men responsible for observing the weather and passing along messages and warnings from one station to another. Readers learn about Thomas Mayhew Woodruff. We'll be spending a good bit of time with him in the upcoming chapters.

Chapters six through nine cover the storm--often from the perspective of those who were caught up in it. Though not always--sometimes we follow those who are WAITING for a loved one and worried about their safety. This storm was COSTLY, deadly even.

Chapters ten through twelve are about the aftermath of the storm.

My thoughts: I found this one to be a super compelling read. It was INTENSE. It was dramatic. I believe it to be well-researched. There are many, many sources listed--and the sources are listed for each chapter. I found the personal touches to this one to be fascinating--history is more alive--more "real" when there are names attached to stories and events. It's impossible not to care. The book is packed with information. I am THANKFUL for the modern advancements made in meteorology.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Debbie V. said...

Sounds fascinating. I also love historical stories like this about specific event. I'm putting it on my GR list but...since we're getting reading to have an arctic air event here in southern Indiana in the next couple of days I will wait to read it in milder weather.
Great review.

Becky said...

Debbie V., sounds like a good plan :) I read it under a quilt and still found myself COLD for hours after reading it.

missi said...

This looks great. I love weather stuff!