Friday, October 19, 2012

Blizzard: The Storm That Changed America




Murphy, Jim. Blizzard: The Storm That Changed America. 2000. 160pp. Lexile 1080.

Blizzard! combines the suspenseful story of a natural disaster that paralyzed New York City with fascinating information about weather forecasting and topics like snow removal in the 1880s.  Readers can’t help but marvel at how much has changed since then.  New York came to a halt for three days as city officials tried to figure out how to remove the snow and where to put it.  Murphy skillfully weaves in stories of real people and how they coped, such as two boys who were trying to walk to the next house and instead spent 22 hours in a snow cave they hollowed out.  Newspaper reports, diaries and books from the time flesh out the characters and incidents as do photographs, paintings and etchings, maps, and pictures of newspaper articles.  This Sibert Honor book is the best of both worldsreadable historical information melded to a dramatic event. Murphy provides eight pages of notes about his research and related reading material in which he lays out how he tackled his subject and what his sources were, including 1200 letters of reminiscences from the Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies, located at the New York Historical Society.

Reading Std #7:  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, visually and quantitatively, and in words.  An author makes choices about what information to present such as which photographs to include.  Photographs make a book more expensive for the publisher to print and authors usually bear the cost of reproducing photographs.  Have students evaluate the photographs Murphy uses, most of which are from the New York Historical Society.  Have students find photographs Murphy didn’t use such as many of the 72 photographs at the Connecticut State Library  (http://cslib.cdmhost.com/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15019coll17) and consider what they might have added to the book.