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The Children's Blizzard

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife reveals a little-known story of courage on the prairie: the freak blizzard that struck the Great Plains, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders--especially their children. The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a long cold spell, warm enough for the homesteaders of the D The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife reveals a little-known story of courage on the prairie: the freak blizzard that struck the Great Plains, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders--especially their children. 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? Based on actual oral histories of survivors, the novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers--one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It's also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It is Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed immigrants to settle territories into states, and they didn't care what lies they told them to get them there--or whose land it originally was. At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents' choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today--because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.


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The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife reveals a little-known story of courage on the prairie: the freak blizzard that struck the Great Plains, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders--especially their children. The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a long cold spell, warm enough for the homesteaders of the D The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife reveals a little-known story of courage on the prairie: the freak blizzard that struck the Great Plains, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders--especially their children. 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? Based on actual oral histories of survivors, the novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers--one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It's also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It is Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed immigrants to settle territories into states, and they didn't care what lies they told them to get them there--or whose land it originally was. At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents' choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today--because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

30 review for The Children's Blizzard

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin The Children's Blizzard is a historical novel that deals with a real time in history known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard, due to the number of children that perish during this tragic storm. The time is January 12, 1888 and the blizzard covers the eastern United States and Canada. This story concerns fictional characters, families who homestead the Dakota territory, and a newsman who feels great guilt for his stories that enticed so many people to leave th The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin The Children's Blizzard is a historical novel that deals with a real time in history known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard, due to the number of children that perish during this tragic storm. The time is January 12, 1888 and the blizzard covers the eastern United States and Canada. This story concerns fictional characters, families who homestead the Dakota territory, and a newsman who feels great guilt for his stories that enticed so many people to leave their countries and their homes to come to this rugged area, to face blizzards, floods, grasshoppers, failing crops, fires, hardships of all kinds, each and every year. The story features two sisters, sixteen year old Raina Olsen, in her first year of teaching school (just a kid, teaching kids, being responsible for kids) and her eighteen year old sister, Gerda Olsen, more experienced but still a teenager. One girl makes a decision to stay with her kids during the storm while the other sends most of hers into the storm, to make their ways home. One girl saves most of her kids while the other girl's students are all lost. One girl is deemed a hero while the other girl is vilified by even her own father. There is also Anette, an eleven year old girl who was sold by her mother to the Pedersen family. Her old homelife was so bad that this could have been a mercy except Mama Pedersen resents living in this unforgiving territory and hates that she has this poor girl living in her attic, so she treats Anette as a slave, working her to exhaustion. Raina lives in the Pedersen's attic, also, boarding there while she teaches at the nearby school and Anette's time with Raina, during classes, is her reprieve from the torment of her labors for Mama Pedersen. We follow these characters and more, including newspaperman, Gavin Woodson, who uses his guilt for bringing settlers to this place, through his articles, to later write of the heroic deeds of Raina and also the miraculous survival of Anette, who struggled through the storm to get back to the farm, fearing a beating by Mama Pedersen, if she didn't do so. Hundreds of people died during this storm, many more than records indicate. Because the storm hit after a warm winter day, just as children were being let out of school, wearing clothes not suitable for a blizzard, many of the deaths were children. Young teachers had decisions to make, some died with their children, others managed to help the children survive.  The story is written in such a way that I never felt close to the characters although I did care for what happened to them, wanted everyone to make it through this time alive, but knew that survival wasn't possible for many humans and most animals. The blizzard story is 4 stars for me but there is an aspect of the book that brought the rating down. There are several places in the story where characters espouse modern day views, seem to step out of 1888 and the chaos of the storm, to think and say things as a person our times. This was so jarring and took me right out of story. There is a time and place for modern day social issues but I do not feel like that time and place was this story about the blizzard in 1888. I rated the story 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars.  Publication date: January 12, 2021 Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine/Delacorte Press and NetGalley for this ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    A brutal fictional portrayal of the loss of life, of limbs from frostbite on January 12, 1888 when an unexpected blizzard which actually hit the Dakota Territories and upended the already difficult lives of immigrant homesteaders. Known as Children’s Blizzard, the majority of those who lost their lives were children as the blizzard hit just as school was about to end for day. While this true historical event is the focus of the novel, Benjamin does an amazing job of also reflecting the time and A brutal fictional portrayal of the loss of life, of limbs from frostbite on January 12, 1888 when an unexpected blizzard which actually hit the Dakota Territories and upended the already difficult lives of immigrant homesteaders. Known as Children’s Blizzard, the majority of those who lost their lives were children as the blizzard hit just as school was about to end for day. While this true historical event is the focus of the novel, Benjamin does an amazing job of also reflecting the time and place, the harsh and hard life on this land for the many immigrants who came to own a piece of it on this prairie through The Homestead Act. All of this is told through the stories of a cast of characters. Raina and Gerda Olsen, sixteen and eighteen year old sisters, both teachers, each making decisions that would forever impact their lives and the lives of their students, different paths forged with different outcomes. The young girl Anette, a servant girl, sold by her mother for “two chickens and a pig” and Gavin Woodson, a journalist, out of the good graces of his New York paper, relegated to writing ads to lure homesteaders are two other characters whose lives will be forever altered as a result of the blizzard . There are others, but the story is mainly told with the narrative focus on these characters. Wonderful writing takes us to this time and place where I felt the cold, where I could see the struggles of these families trying to eke out a living and feel the impact of these times, of this event and their hardships. People died, mostly children and some are blamed, some are deemed heroic . There is heartbreak and grief, guilt and redemption. Not quite 5 stars because I felt it to be a bit slow in parts, but this is really terrific piece of historical fiction. The author in a note explains that the event was real, the characters are fictional, but a few are based on real people. Definitely recommended for readers of historical fiction. I received a copy of this book from Random House Ballantine through NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    ***NOW AVAILABLE, DON'T MISS THIS ONE*** This book reminded me of why I love historical fiction!! Woven into this story are real facts about the prairie. Not just the time of the blizzard but day after day life and what these settlers faced. Immigrants were lured to the land with the promise of 160 acres of land if they settled it for 5 years. Many immigrants were looking for a fresh start, lured by advertising pamphlets that promised so much. “Come to Nebraska, the Garden of Eden!. Acres for the ***NOW AVAILABLE, DON'T MISS THIS ONE*** This book reminded me of why I love historical fiction!! Woven into this story are real facts about the prairie. Not just the time of the blizzard but day after day life and what these settlers faced. Immigrants were lured to the land with the promise of 160 acres of land if they settled it for 5 years. Many immigrants were looking for a fresh start, lured by advertising pamphlets that promised so much. “Come to Nebraska, the Garden of Eden!. Acres for the taking, acres of a bountiful land that will surely yield a harvest fit for the gods. . . .Have you longed to cultivate a land so yielding, the plow is scarcely needed to give up its rich earth?" They were fed lies and misinformation but they came and settled, they made the railroads and businesses rich. They faced drought, scourges of grasshoppers eating their crops and cold and desolate snow filled winters. We owe them so much. On January 12, 1888 the people of Nebraska woke to an especially warm morning. They had been in their houses for days because of frigid weather. The settlers sent their children to school with their lighter weight clothing and they went to town to stock up on provisions. Without the knowledge of what was to come, none of them had any idea that a blizzard of amazing ferocity was about to hit. It would come at the worst possible time, when school was to be dismissed for the day. Imagine being sisters Gerda 18, and Raina Olsen, just 16, both teachers. Both of these very young women were forced to make life and death decisions for the students that they taught. While the women were teaching their classes that day each made different decisions. These decisions would stay with them for the rest of their lives. One was pronounced a hero and the other shunned for her bad choices. The author states that this is based on a true blizzard that occurred but that the characters are fictitious. She did an amazing job of breathing life into them. I really felt for the mothers and fathers, and of course the children, so many children, who would lose their lives this day. Living in an age when we get up to the minute weather conditions, it’s hard to imagine that in the 1800’s they had very little knowledge of what was to come. There isn’t an exact count of how many perished but it was hundreds and many of them children. The first half of the book is about the blizzard and the second half is largely about Gerda and Raina and how their lives would change. Gavin Woodson is a journalist, banished to Omaha from NYC. He is one of those that wrote the advertisements luring people to the area. The storm would change his life in a dramatic way. He would find the heroes and survivors and a little girl named Annette. She is the person who ultimately changes his views on what he does and how he will help those affected by the storm. Ms. Benjamin again has written an engaging, page turning novel which will bring you to tears at times. I can recommend this book to anyone who loves a well written, character driven novel. I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    Come to Nebraska...acres for the taking as per the Homestead Act of 1862. "...-one hundred and sixty of these heavenly acres for only a small filing fee. In five years, those acres will be yours...". "...every pamphlet filled with lies about the land and its opportunities...they came on boats, on trains...the poor, the disenfranchised, the seekers, the dreamers...pack[ing] themselves tightly into [train]cars...immigrants from across the sea...from the cities...they came full of promise. They cam Come to Nebraska...acres for the taking as per the Homestead Act of 1862. "...-one hundred and sixty of these heavenly acres for only a small filing fee. In five years, those acres will be yours...". "...every pamphlet filled with lies about the land and its opportunities...they came on boats, on trains...the poor, the disenfranchised, the seekers, the dreamers...pack[ing] themselves tightly into [train]cars...immigrants from across the sea...from the cities...they came full of promise. They came because of a lie...The railroads very existence depended on them to keep coming-". Immigrants..."dragged away from family, friends...to grow nearly mad with loneliness, screeching wind-sometimes no sound at all". Homesteading could be "...a place of life and death and not much in between except backbreaking work". "Would the crops come to fruition before twisters, grasshoppers, fire or hailstorms, or lack of rain withered them?" In 1888, there was no National Weather Service. It was the job of the Army Signal Corps to take weather readings and telegraph their findings. "The telegraph lines were often blown down by the very weather they were supposed to try to indicate, delaying readings 'until they were of no use'." January 12, 1888 was a warm day. Homesteaders, finding the weather to be a respite from the severe weather snap came outdoors. Farmers tended to livestock, went to town for needed supplies, children dressed in lighter outer clothing went to school and played outdoors at recess. As the school day was winding down, the temperature plummeted. A "severe and wildly unpredictable...terrifying blizzard" would cause two teachers, barely out of school themselves, to make life altering decisions. "Homestead children understand weather...But they were also taught to always obey Teacher." Raina, sixteen years old, was a teacher in Northeastern Nebraska. "It was only last year she was in braids! And now here she was in a quaking, barely insulated schoolhouse...". One of Raina's students, Anette, was a hired girl with no family. She worried about losing her lunch pail and slate. School was her only escape from the drudgery of overwork. Gerda, eighteen years old and Raina's older sister, taught school in Dakota territory. Gerda would know what to do in the face of fire or ice. Two teenagers, prairie teachers. One would be deemed a hero, one a pariah. Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman for the Omaha Bee News, had been writing for the state boosters and railroad investors to try to lure people to the prairie. Now Gavin was "ignited with the need to do something...anything but tell another lie. He needed to do something true, something heroic". "The Children's Blizzard" by Melanie Benjamin is a work of historical fiction that recounts the Children's Blizzard of 1888. Based upon many oral histories and newspaper articles, author Benjamin immerses the reader in the blinding storm with whiteout conditions. Lost in the swirling, blanketing snow, could prairie or city dwellers, be they adults or children, find safety or would they become causalities of the sudden "heavy curtain" of snow? This tome begs the question: What lightning, quick decision would you have made, as a teenage teacher, with a schoolhouse of youngsters counting on you? An excellent, highly recommended read. Thank you Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    ***On January 12, 1888, 235 people were killed by "The Children's Blizzard” that swept across the Northwest Plains. It is estimated that temperatures plunged to 40 degrees below zero in most parts of North Dakota. Most of the dead were children who died attempting to get home after school. - facts taken from Wikipedia and The History Channel websites. **This book is based upon the oral histories of survivors. The morning of January 12, 1888, began as a mild day after a long period of cold weather. ***On January 12, 1888, 235 people were killed by "The Children's Blizzard” that swept across the Northwest Plains. It is estimated that temperatures plunged to 40 degrees below zero in most parts of North Dakota. Most of the dead were children who died attempting to get home after school. - facts taken from Wikipedia and The History Channel websites. **This book is based upon the oral histories of survivors. The morning of January 12, 1888, began as a mild day after a long period of cold weather. Children played outside, farmers tended to their farms, and people ventured out, all without taking their heavy coats with them. While children were leaving school for the day, the blizzard descended upon the plains. Two teachers who are also sisters, Raina (16 years old) and Gerda (18 years old) Olsen were working that fateful day. One would be dubbed a hero; one would face being ostracized after that day. Teachers were young and barely out of childhood themselves and were often inexperienced. Raina and Gerda were individually faced with a tough decision - send the children home with faith that they would arrive safely or stay in the schoolhouse and hope none of them freeze to death. What choice would you make? Could you survive in those conditions? How to keep warm? What to do if your choice backfires and you have to make a new choice? How do you find strength when you feel you have none left? This book also tells the stories of several other people: of a young servant girl, Anette, who survives a night outside in the below-freezing conditions; a journalist named Gavin who writes about the blizzard, and Tor, a young man who faces loss and perseveres. This book will make you feel good that you live in a time where you can go online, check your phone app, or watch the weather channel to know about current weather conditions and you can watch meteorologists track storms. Back then the Army Signal Corps tracked weather conditions and sent out telegraphs. This book notes that they failed to warn the residents of the plains. While reading this I wondered, even if they sent a warning, would those living in rural conditions get those warnings? Who would tell them? This book is about courage and tragedy. It shows characters making tough decisions and having to live with the consequences of those decisions. It is about loss, it is about hope, it is about guilt, it's about family. I enjoyed the book and I love it when I read books that teach me things. Had I not read this book, I would not have known about this blizzard and the tragedy of so many lives lost. Although I enjoyed this book, there was just that little bit of something missing that would have made this book even more enjoyable for me. I found that I felt bad for the characters but did not really connect with any of them. I do appreciate how she showed not only how the characters themselves but how society felt about both Raina and Gerda. I appreciated how she showed guilt and blame. How a decision can alter not only your own life but the lives of others. I appreciate the research that went into the writing of this book. I did find it to be well written and informative. Again, it just lacked that little bit of something for me. Others are enjoying this book more than I did and I encourage people to read their reviews as well. Thank you to Random House Publishing - Ballantine and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Based on a little-known blizzard that struck the Great Plains on January 12th, 1888. “The storm hit at precisely the wrong time here in northeastern Nebraska, southeastern Dakota. (…) It hit right when most schools were about to disgorge its pupils for the day, or just had.” Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman in Omaha, “writes for the state’s boosters and railroad investors, advertising Nebraska as the Garden of Eden, something it was not. To sell all these acres, recently won from the Indians, to rub Based on a little-known blizzard that struck the Great Plains on January 12th, 1888. “The storm hit at precisely the wrong time here in northeastern Nebraska, southeastern Dakota. (…) It hit right when most schools were about to disgorge its pupils for the day, or just had.” Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman in Omaha, “writes for the state’s boosters and railroad investors, advertising Nebraska as the Garden of Eden, something it was not. To sell all these acres, recently won from the Indians, to rubes and immigrants who didn’t know any better. To settle this state, grow the population… (…) and make the businessmen, the investors, the railroads happy. And very rich.” January 1888, Nebraska. When unexpected blizzard strikes during a time of day when children are at school, sixteen-year-old Raina Olsen, a schoolteacher, must make a decision to either stay at school, where they can freeze to death when fuel rans out or to send children home and hope they wouldn’t get lost in the storm. Same day, Dakota Territory. Gerda Olsen, a school teacher like her younger sister, faces the same storm. She makes a different decision than her sister. Afterwards, one becomes a hero of the storm and one finds herself ostracized. After the storm, Gavin Woodson seeks redemption with his new focus on story writing. I’m in awe with this author’s writing. This is a third book by this author that I’ve read this year and I already have two more books by her lined up. The character development is something that stands out in her writing. The well-developed characters you get attached to from the very first pages. Characters you care for and sympathize with. The storytelling is masterful as well, you’re eager to find out what happens next; how things turn out for each character. The atmosphere of the blizzard is well-expressed. The cold, the lack of visibility, the helplessness to find the direction home when snow is blowing in your eyes and freezing them, with “pummeling, knifelike wind.” And aftermath, the frozen parts of the body and the amputations. It’s all so real. Touchingly written. Fully explored dimensions, creating interesting characters and unforgettable story with good sense of place and time period. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    Come to Nebraska, the Garden of Eden! With promises of a better life, people came in waves from across the seas and across the land, toting what meager possessions they could manage, their hearts filled with hope for a better life. Some were farmers believing in the promise of more land, and better soil. Some were fleeing lives where they were destined to die, believing the pamphlets they had read, believing the promises. Some were hopeful for a life with fresher, cleaner air, fleeing confini Come to Nebraska, the Garden of Eden! With promises of a better life, people came in waves from across the seas and across the land, toting what meager possessions they could manage, their hearts filled with hope for a better life. Some were farmers believing in the promise of more land, and better soil. Some were fleeing lives where they were destined to die, believing the pamphlets they had read, believing the promises. Some were hopeful for a life with fresher, cleaner air, fleeing confining cities with air that was choking the life out of them. Some just believed in a dream. None expected a nightmare. The Dakota Territory, formed in 1861, included what are now Nebraska, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. By 1888, it was essentially Nebraska and North and South Dakota, the other territories having split off. Families, homesteaders, settled into the area as quickly as they could, some had been there long enough to begin raising a family, and others came once the area had been settled enough to have a town, shops, businesses, doctors, schools. This was basically a farming community, however, and even children worked the fields during the summer months, although most were lucky enough to attend school during the remainder of the year. January 12, 1888 began with unseasonably warm weather for this area, and was joyously welcomed as recently the weather had been bitterly cold for some time. The settlers took advantage of the warmer weather to head into town while the children were in school, happy to leave their heavier winter attire at home. Without the modern conveniences of televisions, radios, cell phones or newspapers, to check the weather, they had no idea how quickly the weather would change. And, once they could see it, for many, it would prove to be too late. As the blizzard was closing in on them, school was still in session, two sisters separated by distance, both teaching their classes, faced with decisions. Their decisions will haunt them the rest of their lives, and completely alter their lives. One will be hailed for their heroic actions, the other one shunned. Both will be forever changed by this day. But theirs are not the only stories worth reading here, for Anette, one of the young students, has a story to tell, as well. While this is a fictional account, this story is based on the lives and experiences of actual people, and of their stories, as well as the newspaper reporter who not only was responsible for the stories that attracted those immigrants to this land, but their stories that follow, the lives of those who fell victim to this blizzard. Pub Date: 12 Jan 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine / Delacorte Press #TheChildrensBlizzard #NetGalley

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luvtoread

    This book is a historical work based on real events which covers parts of the the most brutal and devastating blizzard that ever occurred on January 12, 1888 in Nebraska that would become known as "The Children's Blizzard". The story follows the lives of four central characters Raina and Gerda Olsen who are young teenage schoolteachers, Annette a ten year old unwanted servant child who has never experienced true love ir happiness in her short life and Gavin Woodson a reporter originally from New This book is a historical work based on real events which covers parts of the the most brutal and devastating blizzard that ever occurred on January 12, 1888 in Nebraska that would become known as "The Children's Blizzard". The story follows the lives of four central characters Raina and Gerda Olsen who are young teenage schoolteachers, Annette a ten year old unwanted servant child who has never experienced true love ir happiness in her short life and Gavin Woodson a reporter originally from New York who works for the newspaper "The Bee" in Omaha, Nebraska which he can't stand and keeps waiting to find a story that will redeem his reporting skills and send him back to the state of New York where he feels he belongs. The morning started out feeling warmish at thirty some degrees after a long spell of below zero temperatures where people could not go outside and children had to stay home from school so this day everyone dressed lightly for school and travelling about while never expecting anything other than having a wonderful sunny day to enjoy. This book will tell the story of some of the heroes and heroines of that fateful day and also the some of the people who made some very bad decisions which resulted in so many unexpected lives being lost while other lives will be forever changed. This book left a haunting impact on myself where I will never forget the characters of this story and how the blizzard affected all their lives. Melanie Benjamin is a wonderful writer and as a result this story will stay unforgettable for me. The brutal life on the prairie and how children must grow up so quickly without other choices and school is considered a little luxury that some parents are resentful is also depicted in this wonderfully written story. The author goes on to tell how animals survive and also perish during brutal weather conditions. This story, truly was a bleak and harsh reality that showed a window view of prairie life that was tastefully told with blunt realism and it's no wonder that so many did not live to reach old age during those times. I cannot even imagine myself living during those times under those conditions and I am so thankful for the life and times I was given. I highly recommend this book to everyone and especially anyone who has any interest in the story of "The Children's Blizzard". I want to thank the publisher " Random House Publishing -Ballantine" and Netgalley'for the opportunity to read this wonderful book and any thoughts and opinions expressed are unbiased and mine alone! I have given haunting novel a rating of 4 1/2 Brutal And Bleak 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌠 Stars!!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    I know my opinion of this book is really going to go against the grain of so many readers but the fact is I didn't care for it. I have read other books by Ms Benjamin that I felt were much better in their construction, their writing, and their approach. I loved her The Girls in the Picture, and very much enjoyed her Mistress of the Ritz , Alice I Have Been, and The Aviator's Wife. I do have a bone to pick with authors or perhaps publishers that classify their books as an historical fiction. Many I know my opinion of this book is really going to go against the grain of so many readers but the fact is I didn't care for it. I have read other books by Ms Benjamin that I felt were much better in their construction, their writing, and their approach. I loved her The Girls in the Picture, and very much enjoyed her Mistress of the Ritz , Alice I Have Been, and The Aviator's Wife. I do have a bone to pick with authors or perhaps publishers that classify their books as an historical fiction. Many of these books have a few historically accurate facts and then embellish them with a plethora of fictional details that take away (in my humble opinion) from the tragedy or even the true events these books are trying to convey. I also know that including the social issues du jour seems to be the way so many authors seem to be headed. I am truly sorry that this book struck no chords with this reader. I also know there are many who so enjoyed it, so please do look at those reviews as I seem to be the odd man out with this one. Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    3.5 Jan 12th, 1888 an unexpected blizzard came through the plains, on what started out as a very balmy day. It came at the time of day when children were about to be let out of school for the day, and so it’s known as The Schoolhouse Blizzard or Children’s Blizzard. Many of the teachers in these schoolhouses were very young girls of about 16 yrs old. This story is mostly about a young teacher named Raina and older sister Gerda, also a teacher at another school that got caught up with their student 3.5 Jan 12th, 1888 an unexpected blizzard came through the plains, on what started out as a very balmy day. It came at the time of day when children were about to be let out of school for the day, and so it’s known as The Schoolhouse Blizzard or Children’s Blizzard. Many of the teachers in these schoolhouses were very young girls of about 16 yrs old. This story is mostly about a young teacher named Raina and older sister Gerda, also a teacher at another school that got caught up with their students during this time and their harrowing journey to safety. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine and Netgalley for the ARC!

  11. 5 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN* (on hiatus)

    Four Stars This is a work of historical fiction about a devastating and unexpected actual blizzard that occurred on January 12, 1888 in the northern Great Plains territories of the United States. The specific states affected were Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota and Kansas. It had been unusually warm that morning, so it caught people unawares, and many had decided to go out and did not dress appropriately for the event that would suddenly occur. It especially a Four Stars This is a work of historical fiction about a devastating and unexpected actual blizzard that occurred on January 12, 1888 in the northern Great Plains territories of the United States. The specific states affected were Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota and Kansas. It had been unusually warm that morning, so it caught people unawares, and many had decided to go out and did not dress appropriately for the event that would suddenly occur. It especially affected children who went to school in one room schoolhouses, because the blizzard commenced just at the time that children were to be let out of school for the day. In addition, many of the schoolteachers were quite young and teenagers themselves, not long out the of students' chairs. Yet they had to deal with an unimaginable crisis to protect their young charges. The author based her main characters on real people who survived this event and had been lauded for their courage. Most of the deaths that occurred were children, over two hundred. Many livestock also perished, frozen helplessly where they stood. The blizzard was so treacherous that it was almost impossible to see a short distance in front of you. In fact, there were most tragic instances where bodies were found just steps away from the homes and barns they were so desperate to reach. There had been a propaganda mission in the newspapers to lure new settlers to homestead in the Great Plains. Immigrants from other countries and people from New York alike took a chance on the prospect of owning acres of land. Little did they know that the soil was almost like a desert and would be difficult to grow things in. This enticing of new settlers also created a boom for the use of the railroad for transport across the country. The settlers focused on in this story had emigrated from Norway. One family had two daughters and no sons, so it would be difficult when they became older to carry on with the farm. The two daughters became teachers. The normal process would be to find a family in another town to let you board during the week while you taught at a school there. Each of these sisters found boarding situations with different families in different cities and they taught at one room schoolhouses. However, each of these sisters handled this monumental weather event in very different ways and with very drastic results. One main character is named Annette and she is a very pathetic and sad figure. This little girl was being mistreated or abused by her stepfather, so her mother actually sold her for some livestock to another family. She went from one bad situation to another, having now to function as a servant while just being a little child herself. She lived in fear and tried to move about doing her chores almost as if she were invisible. It essentially was a hotbed of fear gurgling in the house because there was a burgeoning love triangle taking place. A young woman named Raina, just sixteen and a teacher for the first time, was boarding in the house. Apparently, the husband in the home had gravitated towards her and his beautiful but cunning and mentally unstable wife didn't fail to notice. Annette was silently aware of all these things, adding to the stress she bore already. When Annette learned she would be able to go to school, she was overjoyed. Her new mother figure Anna threatened her that if she ever lost her lunch pail or other school items, she would never get another. So, she clutched these school supplies as if her life depended on it, because school was her only refuge. Annette also suffered the outer markings of a bout with small pox, and some considered her ugly. However, she had one staunch and compassionate best friend at school, a boy named Fredric. Another character is a newsman from New York City who was responsible for writing the fake news pieces about how wonderful it was in the Great Plains, dishing out the propaganda his publishing superiors paid him to fabricate. He began to feel disgusted with himself when he used a desk at the Omaha Bee newspaper and realized the reality of his actions. In the blizzard's aftermath, he hoped to somehow find penance by reporting actual stories from the people who survived it. This was a very interesting and sometimes riveting read. During the height of the blizzard, it reminded me a bit of possibly the best book I read last year, In an Instant. I hung onto every word as it was quite impossible to take another step or bear carrying a child in your arms to safety...but you somehow did. I also enjoyed reading about simple people who don't have much and have to work hard with their hands to survive. This was a well-written historical fiction novel of a horrific weather event that actually happened in 1888. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

  12. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 snowy historical fiction stars -- This one releases today -- January 12, 2021, the 133rd anniversary of the storm. Very clever nod to the publisher. One of my favorite things about historical fiction is when I learn new things about our past. I love how books like this bring events to life and make a memorable impact on me. This is my third book by this author and now my favorite of hers. I got to meet her at a bookstore event (remember those?) a few years ago and she gave an interesting talk a 4 snowy historical fiction stars -- This one releases today -- January 12, 2021, the 133rd anniversary of the storm. Very clever nod to the publisher. One of my favorite things about historical fiction is when I learn new things about our past. I love how books like this bring events to life and make a memorable impact on me. This is my third book by this author and now my favorite of hers. I got to meet her at a bookstore event (remember those?) a few years ago and she gave an interesting talk about research and her writing process. In this one, a raging blizzard hits the Midwestern prairies in mid-January 1888. Of course, back in those days there wasn’t a daily weather forecast to consult. Those efforts were just getting underway and were not helpful at all in this case. The real tragedy was that the morning was a warmer day compared to the cold snap earlier so people dressed in lighter layers. There was no warning of the blizzard ahead and it struck right when schools were being dismissed catching children and immigrant homesteaders off guard. Many of the schoolteachers were quite young – teenagers – and some didn’t make wise choices. Some of the schools were not well built either so staying there wasn’t always the best option, nor were they stocked with limitless fuel to burn. The author chose to take an historical event and populate it with characters that really brought the story alive for me. I especially liked two schoolteacher sisters who made different choices during the storm. One becomes a hero and the other one is held accountable for the choice she made. We also get to know a young servant immigrant girl who is caught in the storm trying to get home from school. I also really liked the newspaper man, Gavin Woodson. On some level, I knew that railroads and others deceived immigrants with promises of lush farmland and good living. I didn’t think about the conscience of the writer of all that propaganda with the backdrop of this tragedy. This was a book that reminded me of the hard work that it took to be successful in those days and the many hardships that had to be endured and overcome. If you like historical fiction, I recommend this one! Thank you to Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for the early copy of this one to read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    One of the things I love most about historical fiction is gaining knowledge of past events. I’d never heard of the Children's Blizzard of 1888 and though this is ‘fiction’ I still feel educated after reading it. A terrible tragedy starting with all the people being ‘lured’ to this area and then with the huge responsibilities placed upon children. In my opinion they all deserve the label of hero. I thought the story itself was good though there were very few likable characters and it dragged in s One of the things I love most about historical fiction is gaining knowledge of past events. I’d never heard of the Children's Blizzard of 1888 and though this is ‘fiction’ I still feel educated after reading it. A terrible tragedy starting with all the people being ‘lured’ to this area and then with the huge responsibilities placed upon children. In my opinion they all deserve the label of hero. I thought the story itself was good though there were very few likable characters and it dragged in several places. My main complaint is that I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that historical fiction writers have felt the need to interject current social issues into their stories where they don’t necessarily fit. For me this ends up being a distraction from the event itself. Cheapens it as though the events themselves don’t deserve the full spotlight. Unfortunately, my rating reflects this. 3.5 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I had never heard of the Children’s Blizzard, the name given to a blizzard that hit the Midwest in 1888. It was a uniquely tragic event because the weather had been relatively warm and the storm was unexpected. Many children died trying to get home from school and journalists played up the human interest aspects of the tragedy. The story skipped around among several characters during and after the storm. Sisters Gerda and Raina were both teachers in different schools. One sister lead her stude I had never heard of the Children’s Blizzard, the name given to a blizzard that hit the Midwest in 1888. It was a uniquely tragic event because the weather had been relatively warm and the storm was unexpected. Many children died trying to get home from school and journalists played up the human interest aspects of the tragedy. The story skipped around among several characters during and after the storm. Sisters Gerda and Raina were both teachers in different schools. One sister lead her students to a nearby home and become lionized. The other sister decided to go off with her beau, leaving her students to find their own way home. Anette was an 11 year old servant who left Raina’s class and headed for home with the help of her friend Fredrik. Gavin was a reporter, looking for a big story. Ollie was an African American merchant who was briefly included in the book because he had children in a third school. His inclusion felt gratuitous. This book is historical fiction and all of the characters are invented. This gives the author the freedom to add melodrama that seemed unnecessary. She worked in racism, adultery, feminist views that seemed inappropriate for the time and place and even a murder. That murder was really a step too far for me. The hardships endured by the children as they tried to get to safety were very compellingly written. The depiction of the lives of these immigrant families was also interesting. Some day I might read the nonfiction book, with the same title, by David Laskin. I generally prefer true accounts of historical events, rather than fictionalizations. 3.5 stars. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I’ve read other books by this author and have liked some of them. To state the obvious, Historical Fiction is fiction so altering facts, creating characters, and making assumptions is to be expected. I’m fine with that as long as the storyline successfully depicts the events, people, and aftermath. This isn’t the case here. The characters are one dimensional, the horror of the blizzard not fully illustrated, and the writing is mediocre.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    *4-4.5 stars. Turn the heat up and grab an afghan before you sit down to read, because I guarantee you will soon be freezing. This is an excellent work of historical fiction about the brutal blizzard that hit the Plains states on January 12, 1888, leaving a high death toll in its wake. It's known as 'the children's blizzard' because so many children were injured or lost their lives in often futile attempts to return home from school that day. Afterwards there were many stories of tragedy, heroic *4-4.5 stars. Turn the heat up and grab an afghan before you sit down to read, because I guarantee you will soon be freezing. This is an excellent work of historical fiction about the brutal blizzard that hit the Plains states on January 12, 1888, leaving a high death toll in its wake. It's known as 'the children's blizzard' because so many children were injured or lost their lives in often futile attempts to return home from school that day. Afterwards there were many stories of tragedy, heroic effort and blame and Benjamin has used some of those details to weave a fascinating story of survival, using two young teachers, sisters as it were, as her main characters. What choices they make that fateful day will shape the rest of their lives. Benjamin's descriptions of the children's desperate struggles through that storm are chilling, to say the least. The second half of the book is about the aftermath of the storm and how the newspaper accounts to follow helped turn one girl into a hero and one into a pariah. Benjamin also describes how the newspapers of the time were used to lure immigrants to the area, publishing glorious depictions of a land of plenty, a virtual garden of Eden. Pioneers found a much harsher reality--poor soil, winds, cold and snowstorms, followed by floods, heat and drought, plagues of grasshoppers. Not even the strong and healthy could survive everything Mother Nature threw at them. The author brings in some of the social issues of the times as well--how white settlers' children were educated in much different ways from Indian and black children, for instance. Those issues, of course, still haunt our society today. I do remember reading a story in grade school about a similar blizzard and worrying that it could happen to us one day. I'm wondering if it might have been The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder that we read. I might have to revisit that story to see; I think it took place in 1881 though. Didn't Indian wisdom say major storms happen every seven years? I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks for the opportunity.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    We meet two sisters who are teachers and a blizzard that is wreaking havoc on the Great Plains just as school is about to be let out. Raina and Gerda had to make the decision about letting the students run home or to keep them in the school. Either choice was risky...one made the right choice and one didn't. The decisions made by Raina and Gerda stayed with them and affected them for their entire lives. We follow the children, the teachers, the townspeople as the blizzard rages, as people become lo We meet two sisters who are teachers and a blizzard that is wreaking havoc on the Great Plains just as school is about to be let out. Raina and Gerda had to make the decision about letting the students run home or to keep them in the school. Either choice was risky...one made the right choice and one didn't. The decisions made by Raina and Gerda stayed with them and affected them for their entire lives. We follow the children, the teachers, the townspeople as the blizzard rages, as people become lost, as those at home are left worrying about their family members, and as everyone is hoping for the best. Once the blizzard was over, the true colors of the characters came out both good and bad. THE CHILDREN'S BLIZZARD is based on a true event that took lives and maimed many. It also is about families who were lured here on the pretense that they would have success, but we see they struggled through harsh winters and parched summers trying to eke out a living. The characters were marvelously developed and interesting with most being likable. I enjoyed learning their present and past stories. As you read, you will grow fond of the characters and also pity them for how they have to live, even though most are very strong and resilient. The book was a bit confusing at first with all the characters and some sections were wordy, but THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD is another of Ms. Benjamin's beautifully written, well-researched historical fiction. 4/5 This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    January 1888. The brutal cold winter had eased a bit. In the Dakota Territory, school children returned to class on a mild-for-January day. Some even ventured out without their heavy coats. It was nice to have a break from the cold snap they had been enduring. Nobody realized that later that day....just about the time for school children to be released to return home....a fast-moving, unexpected blizzard would hit. Blinding snow, dangerous cold, terrible wind, no visibility. The Children's Blizz January 1888. The brutal cold winter had eased a bit. In the Dakota Territory, school children returned to class on a mild-for-January day. Some even ventured out without their heavy coats. It was nice to have a break from the cold snap they had been enduring. Nobody realized that later that day....just about the time for school children to be released to return home....a fast-moving, unexpected blizzard would hit. Blinding snow, dangerous cold, terrible wind, no visibility. The Children's Blizzard of 1888 is the stuff of legends. School teachers, barely out of childhood themselves, were faced with life and death choices. Melanie Benjamin's tale about the struggle to survive on that fateful day is based on the stories of survivors. I grew up in the midwest, and this story was legend. I don't know if I ever read any books about it growing up, but I was definitely told the story and warned what to do and not do in the case of blinding snow, or being caught away from home in a winter storm. The trunk of my car always had a survival kit in it -- blankets, hand warmers, sand, a shovel, etc. The Just-in-Case box is what we called it. Even in modern times, getting stuck in the snow between towns during a bitterly cold winter storm on the prairie can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. I can't even imagine how dangerous winter could be in the Dakotas in the 1880s. The tales of farmers tying ropes that led from the house to the barn so they could follow it as a guide to check on their animals and not get lost in the blinding snow and other prairie winter horror stories were told frequently by my grandfather and my parents. I remember a few storms that were severe for a day or two....and we had the luxury of sitting inside a house in town. Even if the power went off, we were relatively warm and dry. I always imagined braving the cold brutal winter out on a homestead before paved roads, before central heat, before modern comforts. I can only imagine what these families went through trying to survive this massive storm....hoping they had enough firewood, making life-and-death decisions, those who survived, and those who did not. Great book! It brought back a lot of memories for me, and made me nostalgic for my Opa's stories and Laura Ingalls Wilder books. **I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Random House. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**

  19. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    My heart was in my throat for most of the book and yes, tears fell. Melanie Benjamin has created a fictional portrayal around an actual event known as The Children's Blizzzard that happened on January 12, 1888 in the Dakota Territory. It was a relatively mild day after a severe cold snap. People had gotten out of their homes to get supplies, get their animals out to in the fields, and the children went to school as it was the first day they could after it had been so cold. They went to school wi My heart was in my throat for most of the book and yes, tears fell. Melanie Benjamin has created a fictional portrayal around an actual event known as The Children's Blizzzard that happened on January 12, 1888 in the Dakota Territory. It was a relatively mild day after a severe cold snap. People had gotten out of their homes to get supplies, get their animals out to in the fields, and the children went to school as it was the first day they could after it had been so cold. They went to school with lighter clothes because it was so mild. The blizzard hit just before children were dismissed from school or they had just left, and it came on fast. Teachers had to make the agonizing decision of whether to keep the children at school or let them try to make it home by themselves. Some made the right decision and some did not. This story follows Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters who were both very young schoolteachers in different schoolhouses, and what happened to them both during and after the terrible day of this blizzard. It is a heart-breaking story of the tremendous hardship they faced. I love the beautiful prose in the story. Benjamin gives you a full appreciation of the beauty and danger of life on the Plains. The charcters were vividly portrayed and so was the land they lived on and farmed. Benjamin gave this story life and it is a great work of historical fiction. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nan Williams

    This novel, based on factual events, was populated with very hate-filled people who were totally self seeking. I simply can’t swallow that opinion of those who were merely seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Additionally the author used this historical event as a vehicle to promote a current political agenda. I was not able to finish the book because of the unpleasantness of the above. I appreciate this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It This novel, based on factual events, was populated with very hate-filled people who were totally self seeking. I simply can’t swallow that opinion of those who were merely seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Additionally the author used this historical event as a vehicle to promote a current political agenda. I was not able to finish the book because of the unpleasantness of the above. I appreciate this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It will be posted immediately on Good Reads and on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble if requested.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin was a riveting and moving novel. It was a sad story but it was uplifting at moments and even chilling at times. This historical fiction novel was about a time in American history that I had little knowledge of. It took place in the Midwest during the late 1800’s. It was about the blizzard of 1888 that killed so many including a large number of children and so much more. There had been no warning about this storm. The encroaching storm took form without The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin was a riveting and moving novel. It was a sad story but it was uplifting at moments and even chilling at times. This historical fiction novel was about a time in American history that I had little knowledge of. It took place in the Midwest during the late 1800’s. It was about the blizzard of 1888 that killed so many including a large number of children and so much more. There had been no warning about this storm. The encroaching storm took form without any knowledge or warning. It came fast and furious just as school was coming to an end for the day. No one would have been be able to predict the devastation and sadness it would bring. Its timing forced teachers to make very difficult decisions. Most of the teachers during this time in history that lived in the Midwest were merely girls themselves of about sixteen years of age. They came from families of immigrants that had settled in those parts. Often the schools that hired them were far from where their families lived. These young teachers had to decide if they should allow children to go home or if they should keep them at the school until the storm passed. The decisions they were forced to make in a matter of seconds would prey on their conscience long after the blizzard was over. Most of the people living in this part of the country during the late 1800’s were homesteaders. They were immigrants who were lured to these lands with the promise of living “ The American Dream”. In contrast, these immigrants lived hard and brutal lives. These immigrants, however, shared the feelings of courage, hardships, family, sacrifice, sadness, fear and even some small triumphs. Women had few opportunities in this male dominated world the homesteaders led. The life in these parts favored the men. There was also evidence of widespread racism. The Native Americans and the African Americans that resided there were treated unjustly and looked down upon. Melanie Benjamin in her novel, The Children’s Blizzard, expertly weaved and connected several different stories of those that were affected by the blizzard of 1888. The characters she portrayed were well developed and some were even based on real people that actually lived through that devastating time. It was well researched and based on true events. I listened to the audiobook on Overdrive. It was read by Cassandra Campbell. Her performance did not disappoint. She is one of my favorite narrators. I enjoyed listening to The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin and would recommend it very highly.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen R

    On the temperate morning of January 12, 1888, immigrant children walked coatless to school. Nobody could have predicted the blizzard of gigantic proportion just hours away. Shortly after the children were settled in their one-room school house, this surprise catastrophic blizzard struck. Lacking communications, the children’s courageous and resourceful young teachers took charge, making difficult decisions to save the children. I went into this story unaware of this real disaster that took place On the temperate morning of January 12, 1888, immigrant children walked coatless to school. Nobody could have predicted the blizzard of gigantic proportion just hours away. Shortly after the children were settled in their one-room school house, this surprise catastrophic blizzard struck. Lacking communications, the children’s courageous and resourceful young teachers took charge, making difficult decisions to save the children. I went into this story unaware of this real disaster that took place in the Great Plains where lived hopeful, newly settled immigrants. An incredible story based on true survivor stories and newspaper reports that will stay long in my thoughts. Thanks to Random House for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A few years ago, I read a fabulous book on the children’s blizzard by David Laskin. His book is also called The Children’s Blizzard. I was very excited to read Benjamin‘s novel about that tragic and riveting tale. This book was good, but not nearly good as the non-fiction that Laskin wrote. Why mess with the real thing? I read this quickly as I was fascinated by the story, but had several annoyed moments when social topics de jour were broached in the story. How many pioneer woman with children A few years ago, I read a fabulous book on the children’s blizzard by David Laskin. His book is also called The Children’s Blizzard. I was very excited to read Benjamin‘s novel about that tragic and riveting tale. This book was good, but not nearly good as the non-fiction that Laskin wrote. Why mess with the real thing? I read this quickly as I was fascinated by the story, but had several annoyed moments when social topics de jour were broached in the story. How many pioneer woman with children on the prairie in the 1880s could decry that they didn’t need a man? Insert eye roll. After reading this book, my recommendation is to read Laskin’s book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    There is much about this book that I didn’t like but it could be I just didn’t like the parts of the book that were facts, although I must say I disliked all the characters. I found (a) racism, and (b) a woman who sells her child for a few farm animals. And two sisters – the main characters – Raina and Gerda – one is tempted into an almost illicit affair with the husband of the household where she is boarding and the other one sends the children home from school early because she wants to have a f There is much about this book that I didn’t like but it could be I just didn’t like the parts of the book that were facts, although I must say I disliked all the characters. I found (a) racism, and (b) a woman who sells her child for a few farm animals. And two sisters – the main characters – Raina and Gerda – one is tempted into an almost illicit affair with the husband of the household where she is boarding and the other one sends the children home from school early because she wants to have a fling with her boyfriend. I realize they were only young girls but even so I couldn’t force myself to like them. The story plot had more to do with the plight of the homesteaders, the blizzard merely another horrible incident for them to deal with. The whole idea of immigrants being tricked into moving onto these barren lands – being told it was a land of milk and honey – all to boost the profits for the railroads – if that is not distasteful, not to mention dishonest I don’t know what is. I have enjoyed some of Ms. Benjamin’s other books. This one just rubbed me the wrong way.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Chapter 6/15%/1hr 40m No rating. I thought I would love this interesting plot but the book didn't hold my interest at all. Chapter 6/15%/1hr 40m No rating. I thought I would love this interesting plot but the book didn't hold my interest at all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I love these fiction reads for the nuggets of history and the memories of survivors that the storylines are based off of, and this book is no exception. I had never read any books about the Great Plains Blizzard of 1888, which reportedly took the lives of over 225 people. Many of them were children, being that it was a freak storm that occurred in the afternoon when children were finishing their school day. The Children’s Blizzard follows two Swedish immigrant sisters, Raina and Gerda Olsen, who I love these fiction reads for the nuggets of history and the memories of survivors that the storylines are based off of, and this book is no exception. I had never read any books about the Great Plains Blizzard of 1888, which reportedly took the lives of over 225 people. Many of them were children, being that it was a freak storm that occurred in the afternoon when children were finishing their school day. The Children’s Blizzard follows two Swedish immigrant sisters, Raina and Gerda Olsen, who are both young school teachers and survivors of the blizzard. Their teaching day both started out the same - an unseasonably warm day, so they and their students came to school with light clothing (some of them did not even have coats), making them totally unprepared for the drastic change in weather. They are both forced to make a decision whether to stay put or venture out into the storm. It's the aftermath though that is so intriguing, as one sister is celebrated as a hero, while the other is ostracized as a murderer. The descriptions of the blizzard are so realistic - I wish there had been an even greater focus on that. Living in a place where blizzards are not uncommon, I could literally visualize the biting wind and snow and the black storm sky. I kept finding myself thinking about how I would have reacted if I had been in Raina and Gerda's position, and I honestly have no idea. There were also several back stories of other minor characters, which I initially found to be a bit lacking and disjointed, but by the end, you understand how their lives all intersected, and so it all came together for me. I also loved Annette and Frederic's story. Side note: I found the newspaper angle intriguing, as it goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same - as sensationalism sold papers, the reporters were urged to stretch the truth and even make things up entirely, which is why to this day, there is not an accurate count of how many people actually died as a result of the blizzard. Overall, a captivating read with memorable characters, who stay with you long after the last page. It is not a "happily ever after" type of story, but it is one that strikes the perfect balance between hardship and survival. 4 cold stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    THE CHILDREN'S BLIZZARD BY MELANIE BENJAMIN In her new book Melanie Benjamin decided to use fictional character's that a couple of them are loosely based on surrounding a real factual event. The book starts out rather slow highlighting all of the propaganda that was put out in Eastern newspaper's etc. about how the prairie land surrounding the states out west such as Nebraska, Minnesota, Dakota territory, then later Montana was rich farming land to lure many Europeans and poor people from Eastern THE CHILDREN'S BLIZZARD BY MELANIE BENJAMIN In her new book Melanie Benjamin decided to use fictional character's that a couple of them are loosely based on surrounding a real factual event. The book starts out rather slow highlighting all of the propaganda that was put out in Eastern newspaper's etc. about how the prairie land surrounding the states out west such as Nebraska, Minnesota, Dakota territory, then later Montana was rich farming land to lure many Europeans and poor people from Eastern cities. The Homestead Act of 1862, signed into law by President Lincoln encouraged settlement. Anybody who could afford to pay the small filing fee was given the opportunity to suddenly own 160 acres of land. It would automatically become owned land to whomever lived on the land for five years in a home or structure. This land proved to come at the expense of the Native American's who for thousands of years had roamed this land freely relocating Native American's to reservations. The Blizzard that took place in 1888, started out an unusually warm day after a cold and frigid spell. The teacher's and children for the most part didn't have their winter jackets or other cold weather clothing and weren't dressed or prepared for this blizzard. In this fictional account two sister's were teaching and their vastly different decision's about what to do with the children has devastating consequences for their community, the children and themselves. One will become a heroine and the other sister will become an outcast. The further I read the more I enjoyed this narrative. I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this as well. I would read more by this author. Recommended. Publication Date: January 12, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Melanie Benjamin and Random House--Ballantine Publishing for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. #TheChildren'sBlizzard #MelanieBenjamin #RandomHouseBallantinePublishing #NetGalley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    A masterfully written historical fiction story bounding with chilly details SUMMARY January 12, 1888 started as a mild day on the Great Plains, especially in comparison to the frigid temperatures of the past weeks. The children of the Nebraska and Dakota Territory were anxious to get back to school and they left their heavy jackets at home. So when the freak storm hit, school teachers were faced with life and death decisions. Keep the children at the ill-prepared one room schoolhouse or send them A masterfully written historical fiction story bounding with chilly details SUMMARY January 12, 1888 started as a mild day on the Great Plains, especially in comparison to the frigid temperatures of the past weeks. The children of the Nebraska and Dakota Territory were anxious to get back to school and they left their heavy jackets at home. So when the freak storm hit, school teachers were faced with life and death decisions. Keep the children at the ill-prepared one room schoolhouse or send them home and pray they could safely find their way in the howling wind, deep snow and freezing temperatures. The Children’s Blizzard is based on a true weather events and on the oral histories of its survivors. It follows two fictional sisters, both school teachers who survived: Gerda and Raina Olsen. In the aftermath, one was celebrated as a hero and the other was ostracized by her parents and the community. Annette Peterson, a servant girl, also survives the blizzard and catches the eye of newspaperman and booster Gavin Woodson. Gavin, looking for an angle coins Annette as the Maiden of the Prairie. To offset the horrendous news of devastating death toll, which just might prevent more immigrants from moving to the Great Plains, Gavin writes of the heroism during the storm and the strength of those surviving its aftermath. What a storm this must have been to instantly make the Great Plains such a devastating tradgey. Over 235 men, women and children who ventured out in the weather died. Temperatures reached a low of -40 degrees in some areas and the visibility was no more than three feet. REVIEW Benjamin’s descriptions of this storm was nothing short of gut-wrenching. THE CHILDREN’s BLIZZARD is a masterfully written historical fiction story bounding with details. Her writing is enlightening and intense. The tension and drama unfolds at a slow pace. You can’t help but feel the icy wind and wet snow with very step taken by Raina, Gerda and Annette. Benjamin makes your heart go out to those 235 lost souls who were unfortunate enough to have to face the storm and what they must have endured. One of the most interestingly parts of the book, was Benjamins bird’s eye description of the sparkling and snow-laden landscape the day after the storm. While I loved the description, I found the perspective from the hawk as he searched for food amid the secrets held by the snow, either brilliant or freaky. And I am not totally not sure which…perhaps both. Benjamin is the best selling author of several books including: Mistress of the Ritz (2019), The Aviator’s Wife (2013), The Girls in the Picture (2018) and The Swans of Fifth Avenue (2016). Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Publisher Random House Ballantine Published January 12, 2021 Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie DeMoss

    The Children’s Blizzard is the story of the devastating blizzard of 1888, which swept across the Great Plains with no warning and killed hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. This is a fictionalized account of that devastating storm, but is based upon actual events and oral histories of the survivors. This book is exquisitely written. Melanie Benjamin does an incredible job of connecting the reader with the characters. She shares the backstories and inner though The Children’s Blizzard is the story of the devastating blizzard of 1888, which swept across the Great Plains with no warning and killed hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. This is a fictionalized account of that devastating storm, but is based upon actual events and oral histories of the survivors. This book is exquisitely written. Melanie Benjamin does an incredible job of connecting the reader with the characters. She shares the backstories and inner thoughts and feelings of pretty much every character in the book. Even the animals have something to say. And her stories delve deeply into the characters’ lives. The main characters are two sisters who are both schoolteachers. Although they have so much in common, they experience very different outcomes during the storm simply based on last minute decisions. There is also an immigrant family led by a stressed out mother and a dallying, irresponsible father, and a young girl who has been sold to them by her mother for next to nothing. We meet an African American bar owner, who gives us the perspective of how people of color were treated in the late 1880’s. After the storm, a great newspaperman arrives. He comes to the area in search of the next big story, but instead experiences a life-changing connection with one of the victims. Benjamin’s account of the harrowing experiences of the young people struggling though hazardous conditions, blinding snow, and freezing weather to try and find their way home, sometimes in vain, leaves us on the edge of our seat, feeling as if we are traveling with them. Benjamin has written a book based on true events that cannot be missed, and I recommend everyone read this story, which is both heartbreaking and inspiring. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley, and originally reviewed it for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pam Jenoff

    The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin. Melanie's latest, out just over a week, tells the story of immigrant children caught in school during an unexpected blizzard in the Dakota Territor in the 1880's. Harrowing and heartfelt -- a must read! The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin. Melanie's latest, out just over a week, tells the story of immigrant children caught in school during an unexpected blizzard in the Dakota Territor in the 1880's. Harrowing and heartfelt -- a must read!

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