Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blizzard! -- a thrilling and dramatic history of 1888

"New York City on that morning was depressingly gloomy. The air felt heavy with moisture, and it was clear that rain would begin falling any minute. After hurrying to and from church, the majority of people settled in for a cozy day at home. Fires were lit, books and newspapers read, popular songs sung, and games were played and argued over.... The more pious reached for their family Bibles when the subject of predicting the weather came up, and quoted Job 37:16: 'Can any understand the spreading of the clouds?'"

Blizzard! by Jim Murphy

Blizzard! uses a particular dramatic event -- the Blizzard of 1888 -- to put us back in that time and place, to fill in details of the larger history of the times, and to see how people in all walks of life were affected by this unusual storm. Murphy also explains why the Blizzard of '88 had such a hold on the popular imagination, even to this day. There were many first-hand accounts preserved by the New York Historical Society and the blizzard changed the way people viewed the government's responsibility to its citizens, particularly in big cities like New York. People suddenly demanded things like an underground subway and regulations concerning overhead wires and trash disposal. It is shocking also how many men, women, and especially children were forced to ride out the storms on the streets. The number of homeless at that time in New York City was staggering.

I greatly enjoyed reading this entertaining and informative history. The first-hand accounts make the story come to life and I learned a lot about 1880s New York and the surrounding areas. Older kids will enjoy looking through this book which has great photographs, tales of adventure and bravery, and interesting historical detail.

Why you should read it
  • to learn about the Great Blizzard of 1888
  • to learn about an interesting piece of New York and United States history
  • to learn about the changing role of government in cities

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