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Good human interest, revisionist history
This book is a really good read, and the human interest parts of it are exceptional. However, I take exception to the revisionist tone of the book. The author is judging the decisions of people in 1874-1888 based on modern ideas and technology. It really doesn't matter a hill of beans if the signal corps failed to get their warning flags up in time. The only people who would have known would have been those who lived within sight of the flags. There were no TVs, radios, telephones or even cars with which to spread that word. What does he expect would have happened, some Paul Revere would have gotten on his horse and galloped sixty or eighty miles shouting :"the blizzard is coming, the blizzard is coming" in subzero temperatures? That would have been madness. No horse could travel far enough and fast enough to warn anyone and the outcome would have been substantially the same, except for the additional fatality of the horse and rider. I also take exception with the idea the author seems to be presenting, that the immigrants would have been better off had they not been lured to the prairies by false advertising. Had the Ukrainian Mennonites not migrated to the plains, they likely would have died at the hands of Stalin within 45 years, with no survivors. Yes, life on the plains was tough. Yes, the immigrants lost children. But life was tough all over in the late 19th and early 20th century. There was no safe place for children in that period. None. Revising or judging history is always a dangerous idea. Revising and assigning blame without taking all the facts of history into account is just plain silly.
he Children's Blizzard
The event behind the book is fascinating. To try to comprehend the destruction that this storm left behind is almost unbearable. The book is interesting. The style of writing is at times disjointed. I found myself tempted to skip the page after page of meteorological information. I wanted more of the story of the people in the blizzard.
Gripping, haunting and heartbreaking
I happened upon this book while browsing, and am really glad I decided to buy it. It's one of the best books I've ever read. The story of these families, children and adults is heartbreaking, the medical information is fascinating, and the detailed weather info very educational. I've read parts of it over and over Laskin's eloquence is simply stunning. Whenever it snows or is very cold, I can't help but think about this haunting account, and I'm grateful again for my healthy children and my warm house.
Catherine G. Lind
Children's Blizzard story
After reading the book, which I did almost non stop, it was so sad and bittersweet and a real look into our history. You could see the storm in your minds eye progressing, I learned more about how weather works in the best possible way. I will not only suggest this book to others I will buy it for them. Growing up in Minnesota I remember the names and places he talks about it explained things I just skipped through but remembered as I read the story. This took a lot of work to write and a lot of research, it shows. Kudos to Mr. Laskin.
This was one of the best books I have read. A heartbreaking story of history told. I grew up in Iowa & could relate to the harsh winters in the plains. Very captivating book. A must read for people who live there.
A Compelling Read
One of those books you don't put down once you start, Children's Blizzard captured me right away. Larkin draws you into the lives of the people forever changed in January 1888. His written account of the weather dynamics was fascinating, his view on the politics were perceptive. Compare the aftermath of this historic blizzard with the aftermath of Katrina to see how our culture has changed.
I found The Children's Blizzard to be written in a very poor style. While Laskin has a lot of interesting information, he strings it together like a poorly written term paper. He gives a great many unnecessary details - such as the hair style and eye color of Signal Corps members, which just detracts from the main points of the book. His jumping around in both topics and time sequence make the book dull and hard to read. Toward the end, when he gets to the parts about what happened to various individuals, he does draw the reader in - but I felt it was a bit too late. Lastly, as the descendant of Scandinavian/German settlers in North Dakota, I find his summary declaring the settlement of the plains as a failure, to be insulting to the hard work and fortitude of those sod-hut dwellers.
It was a decent book with good information but it was boring and jumped around too much. The subjects were seemingly unconnected for much of it.