Booklist Reviews

/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5-9. On March 10, 1888, the weather on the eastern coast of the U.S. was so pleasant that families were picnicking. By Monday morning, however, a huge, destructive blizzard--actually two storms--stretched from Delaware north to Maine and as far west as the Mississippi River. New York City had 21 inches of drifting snow; Troy, New York, was blanketed under 55 inches. Supplies of fuel, food, and milk dwindled; power lines snapped; trains were trapped; nearly 200 ships were lost at sea; and an estimated 800 people died in New York City alone. No wonder some called the storm "The Great White Hurricane." Like Murphy's award-winning The Great Fire (1995), this is an example of stellar nonfiction. The haunting jacket illustration grabs attention, and the dramatic power of the splendid narrative, coupled with carefully selected anecdotes, newspaper accounts, and vintage and contemporary photos, will keep the pages turning. Murphy does a fine job describing the incredible storm, the reasons behind the tragic consequences, and the terrifying fates of victims. A splendid choice for booktalking; order several copies. Notes are appended. ((Reviewed February 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Guide Reviews

In March of 1888, two massive weather systems converged on the northeastern United States, precipitating gale-force winds, heavy snows, and subzero weather. Drawing on extensive newspaper articles, histories of the period, and archived letters and journals, Murphy writes of the storm through the experiences of a number of people. Each provides him entry into background discussions covering the political and social conditions of that time. Ind. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

This sampling of pivotal architectural landmarks-bridges, tunnels, dams, domes, and skyscrapers, published as a companion to the author's PBS series of the same title-confirms that David Macaulay has always been intrigued at least as much by the engineering involved in such projects as by their aesthetic qualities. Bridges make an admirable starting point ("they are in a sense three-dimensional diagrams of the work they do"), with Rome's ancient stone Ponte Fabrico first to demonstrate the interaction between available technology and materials, function and dimensions, and the various balances between compression, tension, and load, concepts the author follows throughout. His explanations are lucid and detailed, and the progressions from one architectural solution to others of increasing complexity (e.g., eight domes ranging from the Pantheon to the Astrodome) implicitly reveal a little social history along with technological developments. But although the TV version, according to Macaulay, includes "the larger historical, social, and environmental issues associated with the building of big things," he is contented, here, to focus on "nuts and bolts," discussing each structure as the result of "planning and design problems that had to be solved and the solutions that were eventually built,...each...the result of a logical and therefore accessible sequence of events." Similarly, Macaulay's illustrations support only this narrower vision: detailed diagrams and close-ups explicate the text, sometimes even omitting a view of the entire project. It's fine as far as it goes; but the story of how innovative engineers have devised ways to deal with thrust and weight in ever-larger structures would be far more meaningful in the context of the structures' functions and, especially, their consequences. A glossary is appended.In March of 1888, two massive weather systems converged on the northeastern United States, precipitating gale-force winds, heavy snows, and subzero weather. The storms caught a nation unaware; for two days an ensuing blizzard raged, killing hundreds of people. In its aftermath, legislation expanded the role of the United States Weather Bureau, and cities began complying with directives for placing utility cables underground and developing workable emergency action plans. New York City, hit especially hard, revamped its transportation system and began building the subways still in operation today. Drawing on extensive newspaper articles, histories of the period, and archived letters and journals, Murphy writes of the storm through the experiences of a number of people: a young woman traveling by rail from Buffalo to New York City; a cub reporter weathering the storm on a pilot boat in the Atlantic; three young adults commuting across Newark Bay to work in the Singer Sewing Machine factory; a farm family in Connecticut; a female telegraph operator; and the president of the New York Central Railroad. Not only do these individuals personalize the account with their triumphs and tragedies, they also serve as demographic representatives of the larger population. Each provides Murphy entry into background discussions covering the political and social conditions of that time, including urban transportation, the plight of the poor, and the job insecurity of white- and blue-collar workers. Murphy treats his subject with respect as he curbs the inherent sensationalism of the topic through an informal, journalistic style. To build urgency in the narrative, he creates cogent transitions from one event to another and from personal events to broader historical segments. Even with all of these connections, individual chapters stand alone, providing access for browsers and those searching for nonfiction read-alouds. Sepia-colored illustrations (archival photographs and original art from the period) reinforce the historical setting; an explanatory chapter on sources and an index close the book. Copyright 2001 Horn Book MagazineReviews

Kirkus Reviews

In the same format as his Newbery Honor title The Great Fire (1995), Murphy brings the blizzard of 1888 to life. He shows how military weather-monitoring practices, housing and employment conditions, and politics regarding waste management, transportation monopolies, and utilities regulation, all contributed to—and were subsequently affected by—the disaster. He does so through an appealing narrative, making use of first-hand accounts whose sources he describes in his notes at the end (though, disappointingly he cites nothing directly in the text). The wealth of quotable material made available through the letters of members of "the Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies" and other sources help to make the story vivid. Many drawings and photographs (some of the blizzard, but most of related scenes) illustrate the text. These large reproductions are all in a sepia-tone that matches the color of the typeface—an effect that feels over-the-top, but doesn't detract significantly from the power of the story. Murphy's ability to pull in details that lend context allows him to tell this story of a place in time through the lens of a single, dramatic episode that will engage readers. This is skillfully done: humorous, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking, and chilling. (index) (Nonfiction. 9-14) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 5 Up-In the style of The Great Fire (Scholastic, 1995), Murphy writes a fascinating account of the March, 1888, storm that paralyzed the Northeastern U.S. for four days. This terrifying natural disaster is described from the perspectives of several individuals of various ages and social positions, primarily in New York City, some of whom survived the storm and some of whom did not. The narrative is a readable and seamless blend of history and adventure adapted from extensive first-person accounts and primary news sources. Beginning with an ominous harbinger, the scene is set with descriptions of what life was like at that time, including popular culture and means of forecasting the weather, which completely failed in this instance. The text is exciting without being melodramatic: as the storm arrives, strengthens, and stays, readers come to see the horrible extent to which people had to cope with the loss of food, heat, communications, and loved ones. Concluding by explaining why this event is important, the author places it in the context of other weather and its effect on history. Authentic photographs, drawings, and maps that demonstrate the course of the storm, all done in the same sepia tone as the text, perfectly illustrate the book. Overall, a superb piece of writing and history.-Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

In March of 1888, an unexpected blizzard hit the northeastern United States and hovered for three days, crippling transportation and communication. Hurricane-force winds, heavy snowfall, and dropping temperatures left thousands trapped between work and home, and hundreds of trains were stopped by snow- and ice-blocked tracks. Telephone and telegraph lines went dead, food and coal became scarce, and in New York City, a three-block trip via horse-drawn transportation soon cost fifty dollars. The blizzard had long-reaching impact; within the years that followed, an underground wiring system was enforced in New York and construction of its subway system started. Cities began taking responsibility for snow removal. Murphy, author of The Great Fire (Scholastic, 1995/VOYA, August 1996, Nonfiction Honor List 1995), uses newspaper articles, books, and archived personal accounts to reconstruct a chronology of the blizzard. He presents a variety of individual stories to personalize the event. Each person's story is brief, so the people are not very memorable, yet these accounts bring drama to the story. Detail about the social and economic conditions of the time help the reader understand how such a storm affected both urban and rural families, and drawings and photographs illustrate the extent of the devastation. Fascination with weather is not new-a Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies was created after the storm-and this first annual Sibert Award honor book will appeal to both teens and adults interested in weather extremes and history.-Julie Wilde. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Source Notes. Further Reading. 4Q 4P M J S Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews