Book Review of
The Children’s Blizzard
“David Laskin deploys historical fact of the finest grain to tell the story of a monstrous blizzard that caught the settlers of the Great Plains utterly by surprise. Using the storm as a lens, Laskin captures the brutal, heartbreaking folly of this chapter in America’s history, and along the way delves into the freakish physics of extreme cold. This is a book best read with a fire roaring in the hearth and a blanket and box of tissues near at hand.” — Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City
Thousands of impoverished Northern European immigrants were promised that the prairie offered “land, freedom, and hope.” The disastrous blizzard of 1888 revealed that their free homestead was not a paradise but a hard, unforgiving place governed by natural forces they neither understood nor controlled, and America’s heartland would never be the same.
Did you ever read the book The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Do you remember how it talks about blizzard after blizzard after blizzard? Do you remember the story of trying to get home from school in the blizzard? Or how they had to grind wheat in their coffee grinder just to have something to eat? The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is the real life, more detailed account, of winter on the Dakota prairies during 1888.
That winter of 1888 was a historic winter in American history. Thousands of immigrants had moved west and were not prepared for the winter that they had to endure. The most violent blizzard that winter killed hundreds of people, mainly children trying to get home from school.
This book is about a different winter than The Long Winter, but it parallels much of what was in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book and goes into so much more detail. I found it fascinating to compare the accounts of this book and The Long Winter. This book was also a reminder that severe weather is a not so pleasant part of life, but we have so much technology to make it safer. We hear stories about severe weather and storms now and instantly think about how bad we have it. Yes, storms are deadly and horrific, but if this storm happened today, and it easily could, the death toll would be much lower. The technology we have today to predict severe weather is amazing compared to what they had in 1888. Yes, people still die in storms, but nothing like they did a hundred or two hundred years ago.
If you love history, weather, or grew up loving Little House on the Prairie books, I think you will enjoy this book about this historic winter on the American prairie. I think this book will also make you appreciate the fact that we have so much weather technology and the ability to send out mass warnings of weather events.