Reading/Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
This short chapter book follows John Hale in his adventures as a settler in Dakota. Originally from Chicago, his family moved when the government offered land for people to settle and farm. Previous to the move, John had lived in the city. He had to learn how to live life on the plains. John has the usual adventures of a young boy—playing with his friends, chasing his sister, and hunting for King Rattler—a huge rattle snake that lives by the creek. Winter comes earlier than planned, bringing with it a huge blizzard that covers the area in ten feet of snow. Many of the children are trapped in the school, including many of John's friends. John almost dies when he is buried in the snow but is able to survive through luck and the aid of others.
This book was heartwarming and sweet. With a lot of history tied into this story, it makes it an educational as well as entertaining read. The sentence and paragraph structure are incredibly simple, perfect for readers who are just starting to grasp the comprehensive narratives of a chapter book. This book contains a few beautiful illustrations that help the reader visualize things like the house John lives in. Overall it was a very good read, with a quick plotted pace that kept you equally invested and terrified that John and his friends would perish from the storm. There are morbid themes as it does mention that nearly 100 children died in this ‘Children’s blizzard’—but that’s history and the rest of the novel has a very upbeat and optimistic tone. A very good read that is great for young chapter book readers.