Fact or Fiction: Get lost in The Children’s Blizzard

In Fact or Fiction I recommend a fiction and nonfiction book on the same topic. This month you can choose a richly-detailed historical novel, a compelling history or both! Either way you’ll learn about a deadly blizzard that killed or maimed hundreds, including dozens of schoolchildren.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Bestselling author Melanie Benjamin revisits a terrifying blizzard that killed or maimed dozens of schoolchildren in her latest historical novel The Children’s Blizzard. Sisters Raina and Gerda both teach school in one-room schoolhouses on the Great Plains. Both young women are preoccupied with man troubles. Teenage Raina has been propositioned by the husband where she boards and Gerda is anxious for her beau to commit.

When a sudden early afternoon blizzard shrieks through the plains, each sister must decide whether to let her students stay in the school or go home. Blinding snow and dangerously plummeting temperatures make either option treacherous. The decisions each young woman makes will have consequences for the rest of her life.

Using the real-life Schoolchildren’s Blizzard of 1888 as her inspiration, Benjamin’s novel is rich in detail about the deadly blizzard and offers a sympathetic portrait of the immigrant homesteaders duped into coming to the Great Plains. 

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

Young Jonathan Kaufmann would always remember his mother’s peals of hysterical laughter when the three blocks of ice were placed near the stove to thaw. The blocks of ice encased his dead brothers who froze after wandering lost for hours in blinding snow and frigid temperatures. 

Laskin’s book vividly describes the tragedy of the Kaufmann family who lost three sons during the terrible blizzard of Jan 13, 1888. This was just one of the many tragedies that affected families throughout Nebraska and the Dakotas. 

With little warning from the still fledgling weather service, men went to work in their fields and children went to school the morning of Jan 13. They never dreamed the weather that for once was milder than usual would turn so quickly and violently deadly. 

Everyone had to make snap decisions that day.  Should the schoolchildren stay in the poorly heated schoolhouses or should  teachers send them home? Should wives look for the husbands in the fields or stay inside with their young children? The wrong choice could mean death. 

Stories of heroism and heartbreak make The Children’s Blizzard an unforgettable account of an unforgettable blizzard. 

Constant reader, book selector, shameless promoter of good reads - these are just a few of the things I do as a Collection Development Professional. I love sharing the hidden gems in our nonfiction collection!