January 12, 1888, started out as unseasonably warm in the upper plains states. Children left home for school without their winter clothing in Nebraska, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Suddenly the weather changed, leaving everyone unprepared for hurricane force winds, horizontal snow and the sudden drop in temperature. Children were sent home from school and hundreds of them perished on the way, thus the title of this book, The Children's Blizzard.
Using survivors’ accounts of the storm, the author, David Laskin, creates a gripping book about the blizzard that is as hard to put down as any thriller. Laskin personalizes the experiences of five of the families involved and tells how they tried to deal with the storm. There actually was a weather service back then. It was run by the Army Signal Corp and the author discusses their efforts, which were, not surprisingly, not particularly efficient or very sophisticated at that time. His discussions about how brutal cold harms the human body and eventually leads to death are particularly enlightening.