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Children's LiteratureFree verse tells the story of the entirely unexpected and devastating snowstorm in March of 1888 which immobilized New York City (and much of the East Coast though the book doesn't say). In spite of the weather, a young girl from a well-to-do family insists on viewing the famous Barnum circus and performs her chores religiously in order to sway her parents. As the family makes its way through the storm, they see "crushed storefronts/and sparrows frozen in snow,/blown and tangled telegraph wires." But the show does go on, even if it plays to a near-empty house. Later, text and pictures show this wealthy family going on cheerfully despite the hardships the storm must have wreaked on others less fortunate, making this version less frightening to children but also less balanced. Parts of this are informative, such as the pictures of carts carrying snow out of the city to be dumped into the river. But the pretty watercolor illustrations with pastel and ink highlights evoke little emotion or the drama of the event, and the characters stare blankly at the action. The hybrid text is mostly free verse, but occasional end rhymes suggest rhythmic poetry while skirting it at the same time: "It was only a few blocks/to Madison Square,/so I begged Papa for us to walk there." These often forced rhymes create some skewered syntax, such as "...the newspaper did assure." Young readers may be introduced to this event by this book and learn more about the storm in the author's note, but Jim Murphy's book for older children, Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America (Scholastic, 2000) truly fills in the gaps with more dramatic text, judiciously selected contemporary accounts, and primary sourcephotographs. 2004, Walker, Ages 5 to 9.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.