Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Anna's Blizzard

Anna's Blizzard

Alison Hart
Illustrator:  Paul Bachem 
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 10
Peachtree Publishers, 2017   ISBN: 978-1682630020

It is a winter’s day on the Nebraska prairie and Anna is doing her usual chores. She enjoys rounding up the sheep with her horse Top, collecting the eggs, and helping her mama with the other farm work, and she would happily do it all day. Unfortunately, Anna’s mama is determined that at least in winter Anna is going to go to school so that she can get an education. Anna hates school, but when her mama lays down the law, there is nothing Anna can do but comply.

Reluctantly Anna gets ready for school, gets on Top’s back, and heads off. It is a surprisingly warm morning and it almost feels like spring. Of course everyone knows that the warm spell won’t last. It is still winter and soon enough another storm will bring wind and snow to the prairie again.

Sure enough while Anna is struggling with writing, memorizing, subtraction, and other scholarly pursuits, a storm blows in. When white-out conditions set in, Anna and the other children who know the prairie well begin to grow concerned. Their school teacher, Miss Simmons, is from Boston and she does not know what a Nebraska snow storm can be like. When the children explain that they will probably have to spend the night in the school house she is appalled. They don’t have bedding, they don’t have much food. “How will we manage?” she says.

The older children explain that they need to bring more fuel into the school so that they can stay warm, and so Anna suggests that John Jacob, who is big and strong, should be the one to bring in more wood from the lean-to where it is stored. They will tie a rope around him and Anna and Ida will hold onto the rope so that John Jacob does not get lost in the blizzard. When he has an armload of wood he will tug on the rope and the girls will pull him towards them.

This plan works for a while until the knot on John Jacob’s end comes undone. Without delay Anna heads for the lean-to to get her friend, knowing that he will freeze to death if she doesn’t find him. By some miracle she finds the lean-to and is able to bring Jacob back to the school house safely.

The children share the food that they have and then bed down for the night as best they can, but their sleep is soon disturbed when the roof of the school caves in under the weight of the snow. If they stay where they are they will surely freeze, but if they try to get to a farmhouse they could get hopelessly lost.

On January 12, 1888, a massive winter storm blew over the Great Plains. The day had been warm so people were not expecting such a ferocious attack from Mother Nature. In some places the temperature dropped over seventy degrees in just a few hours. Many children like Anna and her friends were trapped in their schools. Some tried to get to safety and failed. Others were luckier and found places to take refuge until the storm blew itself out, or they got to a home where they were taken in and cared for.

This wonderful book combines fact and fiction to give young readers a story that brings history to life. As the story unfolds, we see how the children and their teacher react to all kinds of situations that are frightening and sometimes downright dangerous. We see them at their worst and at their best.