Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Children's Blizzard

I know it has been quite a long time since I last posted a book review.  I'm sorry, but, as you all know, life gets busy.  I've been reading a lot, and it has all been non-fiction.  Now, there is nothing wrong with non-fiction; if you are a boy you probably love non-fiction.  However, I do not love non-fiction; I love realistic fiction.  I agree that it is good to read out of your comfort zone, but my next book is going to be realistic fiction.  After reading harder books or books that you don't love it is fun to go back to a genre or book you know you love.  I just hope I can get it, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, from the library pronto.  I've been wanting to read it for a while.

I had to take a class, an Arizona Constitution class, for my teaching certificate.  I think it's a bit ridiculous the hoops I have to jump through to get my teaching certificate; I especially think it's ridiculous b/c I've held a teaching certificate in four other states.  I've jumped a lot of hoops, and I would hope that the hoops in other states I've completed would make my hoop jumping a little less in a new state.  However, that may be ridiculous thinking or hoping if you ask me.  Now, if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, you know that there seems to be hoops to jump no matter what state you live in.  Such is the life of teachers.  So, I took this class; I took this semester long class in four weeks.  This class required a decent amount of reading.  I had to read an entire textbook full of history and social studies foof in four weeks; that kind of reading is not nearly as fun to me as a good fiction book is.  However, my class, as of Saturday, is officially finished.  The final has been taken, and the final grades have been posted.  Yay!

My book club also chose a non-fiction book to read this month.  Now, I have to say that I suggested this book.  It's a book I've been wanting to read for awhile ever since a friend told me about it.  I decided reading a book about a blizzard was best to be read in the winter time.  So, here I am reading two non-fiction books; here I am reading two books that I wouldn't normally gravitate too.  I didn't enjoy the textbook, but the book club book, The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin, was pretty good.  There were things I liked, and there were things I didn't enjoy as much.  

The Children's Blizzard wasn't the best non-fiction book I've ever read, but I did learn a lot, my heart strings were pulled for the people during the blizzard, and I'm glad I read it.  I think I would've felt differently about the book had I read it not at the same time as my class.  Out of 5 stars I think I would give this book a 2.5.  It was okay, but it wasn't my favorite.

Here is the book description I found on Amazon: "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."

The above description is quite short for a normal book description; there is a lot more to this book than this description lets on to.  I really enjoyed the stories about the different people/immigrants.  The story begins with several different families, both large and small as well as older and younger, in Europe.  They all heard about the promise of free land in America, and they wanted a better life for their family.  The families settled in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and around that general area.  I loved hearing the stories of the individuals, and I think this is what made the book a good non-fiction book.  You get attached to these characters, and you feel for them when you hear about where they were at when the horrible January 12th blizzard of 1888 hit.  

The story is wonderfully executed, and really sad to read, when you start reading about these families and their children getting stuck in the blizzard.  They call the 1888 blizzard the "Children's Blizzard" b/c so many kids got stuck in the blizzard; the blizzard really got bad and attacked just as school was letting out.  I found it hard to read about the damage frostbite did to children's feet and to the people in general.  It was hard to read about the impact the blizzard had on the lives of these characters you came to know and care about, but it was a necessary part of the book.  Well done Laskin, but it was still disturbing at times.  

Laskin also did a good job with explaining how the bitter cold weather was deathly and why the blizzard caught everyone off guard.  There were times when Laskin would get a little wordy and/or go into too much detail about a certain topic, and he would lose my interest.  There was an entire chapter dedicated to meteorology, and while I am sure some people really enjoy that kind of stuff it got a little boring for me.  Overall, I do think the good writing and the story line with the characters outweigh the overly detailed wordiness in other areas.

All in all, I really did learn a ton about how horrible the blizzard was, and I am sure that is the goal of every non-fiction author.  Laskin did a great job informing me of a time and event that I didn't know about.  He did a good job with The Children's Blizzard, but I think reading it once will be just fine for me.  

1 comment:

  1. Not my favorite either! I skimmed most of it and totally skipped the meteorology parts!