A fierce blizzard, a precious brooch… And a little girl determined to withstand one to reclaim the other!
Katie’s mother is desperately weak, despite Katie’s careful nursing. But she is strong enough to beg Katie to reclaim the garnet brooch which poverty forced her to pawn a year ago. The money is all saved, but time is running out. The brooch will be placed for sale unless it is redeemed today. Katie’s father, who works for the railroad, intended to go downtown and redeem it today, but the raging blizzard has blocked his train outside of town.
What should Katie do? Is the brooch important enough to leave her mother alone with her younger twin brothers while she hastens downtown to collect it? And if she does venture forth, will she survive the storm?
I was amazed with this book. Not because the story was really well-crafted or because the characters were especially memorable, but because there weren’t any negative elements in the book. This book was written in the 1970s, yet there was no belittling of family values. No sarcastic back-talk to adults. No cruel teasing of younger siblings. No gushes of rage and “It’s not fair!” whenever hardships are faced. So far from this, the story actually teaches the importance and value of heritage through a refreshingly sweet and mature protagonist.
In most of the books that I’ve read about twelve year olds, the kid is mainly concerned about her friends, appearance, liberties, and supposed abuses. In short, they’re self-centered. This book is different. Katie is responsible for the welfare of her sick mother and two little brothers while her father is away. She doesn’t shirk her responsibilities. She is servant-hearted. As an illustration, here is a passage from the first chapter.
‘She [speaking of Katie] liked to do difficult, grown-up things by herself. Ever since she had turned twelve, Katie felt very grown-up. She was pleased when Mama depended on her. And Mama did.
“Dependable Kate,” Mama called her, and Katie would flush with pride.’
Big difference from those who expect their twelve year olds to be rebellious. Also, the phrase “by herself” may have made Katie sound like a kid trying to prove herself, but she actually showed a pretty level head throughout and even accepted help from adults when she needed it.
The entire plot of the book is driven around Katie’s quest to recover the brooch, demonstrating a strong respect for family heritage. It is clear from the book that they aren’t seeking to recover the brooch because of its monetary value, but because it has so much history tied to it. Here’s the passage that introduces us to the brooch:
‘She [Katie] looked up at her parents’ wedding picture in its heavy carved frame on the wall. There they both were: Papa stiff in his dark suit, staring into the camera; Mama, round-faced and smiling above the high lace collar held at the throat with a bow-shaped pin. Katie knew the pin. It was the special garnet brooch which Grandma Kate had brought all the way from Ireland. All the women in Mama’s family had worn that pin on their wedding day. That’s me too, Katie thought. Someday.’
So, instead of repudiating what might be considered an ‘old-fashioned’ tradition, she embraces it. Instead of divorcing herself from her heritage, she respects it. She looks forward to it. She cherishes it. And I appreciate that, especially in a children’s book. Because these are the sorts of things we’re trying to teach our children, aren’t they? Responsibility. Maturity. Accountability. Respect for heritage. Love for parents. These are all good things – and all things that are taught in Day of the Blizzard.
Conclusion. I recommend this book without any reservations.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret