Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Release Day! The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin ~ My Thoughts #TheChildrensBlizzard #NetGalley

Congrats Melanie
on the release today of
The Children's Blizzard!

The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
384 pages
Published January 12th 2021 by Delacorte Press

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. 

My thoughts about The Children's Blizzard ~~ 

(I love to note the first lines of the books I'm reading. First lines can really grab a reader's attention and I love seeing where the author takes the reader after their first lines.)

First line—"They came on boats, on trains, great unceasing waves of them—the poor, the disenfranchised, the seekers, the dreamers."

The Children's Blizzard is an amazing story. Growing up in Nebraska and required to study Nebraska history in 4th grade, I was familiar with the story of the blizzard of 1888. Melanie personalized it even more for me by putting names and real lives to the children that I had studied in class. 

Living in the Midwest at that time in history could not have been easy. And then to throw in an unexpected storm that ended up killing a lot of people, children, and livestock, it's a wonder anyone stayed there. This story shows the hard times of life back then, but there were also good times, and good people, and we see that as well. 

Following the experiences of Raina and Gerda, two young teachers who ended up with the lives of so many children in their hands, we get to witness the horror of that freak, unexpected storm that seemingly came out of nowhere. Both of the sisters make decisions that will affect the lives of so many people. I enjoyed how the stories of all of the characters were so intertwined—some stories good, some stories bad—but all of them woven together so beautifully.

At times this was a hard story to read, for the hardships that the teachers and children had to endure. I kept thinking, how can they endure any more? But it's history and it happened. 

The Children's Blizzard is an accurate depiction of that time and it's an interesting, eye-opening story.  I enjoyed it immensely and devoured the book. And remember, I had to study this topic in grade school. 

I loved The Children's Blizzard and highly recommend it! 

I received an ARC of The Children's Blizzard from the publisher via NetGalley and this is my honest opinion.

About the author

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her latest novel, Mistress of the Ritz, is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age; and The Girls in the Picture, about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film.

Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library's summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction.

Melanie lives in Virginia with her husband. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Authors Unbound speakers bureau. When she isn't writing or speaking, she's reading. And always looking for new stories to tell. ~ Author's Website

Connect with Melanie


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  1. This sounds really good. I've read many of Melanie Benjamin's novels and have enjoyed them. I'll definitely have to read this one.

  2. I haven't read about this event before. I love historical fiction, though -- definitely need to check it out. (Also, I'm a teacher and have worried in the past that I might get stuck at school in a snowstorm.)


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