Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard

The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard

Marty Rhodes Figley
Illustrator:  Shelly O. Haas 
Historical Fiction
For ages 5 to 7
First Avenue Editions, 2004   ISBN: 978-1575056197

The day began very normally. Annie and Sarah were on their way to school until Annie realized that she had forgotten her lunch pail. As her lunch pail had left-over birthday cake in it, Annie insisted on going back home to get it. Luckily they were not late in getting to the school house despite their little diversion.

In the late 1800’s in Nebraska the prairie settlers were forced to build their homes, schools and churches out of sod as there were too few trees around to use them for building purposes. Annie and Sarah’s school was just such a sod structure and though it might not have been beautiful, it served its purpose. At least it did so until January 12 1888.

It was on this day, the day after Annie’s birthday that the simple little school house, the sixteen children that went to it, and the teacher who taught them, were struck by a terrible storm. The day had been surprisingly warm until the children noticed a low cloud racing towards them. It began to get terribly cold and then the ferocious storm made the school’s door break off its hinges and a part of the roof fell in. Clearly the children and their teacher had to find a new refuge.

This simple yet remarkable story about a very brave teacher and the children whose lives she saved is sure to fascinate young readers. Based on the true story of a teacher called Minnie Freeman, the author takes us back to a time when people were truly at the mercy of the elements, unable to keep in touch with one another when Mother Nature decided to lash out at them. Shelly O. Haas’s illustrations beautifully compliment the simple text, emphasizing the beauty of the prairie and the sheer power of the storm.