Courtesy of the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan
Posted February 15, 2021
Inspired by a ferocious storm that struck Dakota Territory in 1888, the 2021 One Book South Dakota is a historical novel that hits close to home.
The Children’s Blizzard, which covers events that occurred in what is now South Dakota, was announced on Jan. 12 as the 2021 One Book South Dakota. Author Melanie Benjamin appeared live on SDHC’s Facebook page to discuss her book.
The One Book announcement coincided with the 133rd anniversary of the titular blizzard and with the release date of Benjamin’s newest novel, which is based on the oral histories of the storm’s survivors. On Jan. 12, 1888, a mild day in Dakota Territory turned into a deadly blizzard. Because students had gone to school without their heavy coats, many young schoolteachers were faced with a life and death decision: allow the children to go out in the blizzard in hopes of making it home, or stay in the schoolhouse and risk being trapped?
Benjamin tells the fictional stories of sisters Raina and Gerda Olsen, schoolteachers in southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska who make very different decisions on that fateful day. Other main characters include servant girl Anette Pedersen and newspaperman Gavin Woodson.
“I’m so honored that you chose this novel that really is so much about Dakota and the Great Plains — it was set there — and about this tragedy that is so well-known and remembered today,” Benjamin said. “And I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to share this with so many readers in South Dakota.”