Title: A Blizzard YearA Blizzard Year
Author: Gretel Ehrlich
Illustrator: Kate Kiesler
Pages: 122
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

I read this book in February of 2013. So, yeah…

The Story.

Timmy wonders if maybe she should change her name. After all, she is thirteen now – maybe it’s time to start sounding less like a boy and more like a woman. But there’s no time to think about that now anyway, not with several cows ready to give birth and a nasty snowstorm closing in on their Wyoming ranch.

In the difficult winter and spring of that year, Timmy’s family loses a lot of livestock – so much that the bank believes they will be unable to continue payments on their home. The bank’s decision is cruel but final – they must foreclose in the fall.

Can Timmy think of a way to keep their ranch afloat? Or must she learn to move on?

Discussion.

Having read the book, I can’t quite tell if my above synopsis makes the story sound cute and horsey. Because it isn’t. It’s the very real story of what is actually required to keep a ranch running – sleepless nights of exhausting work – and the indomitable spirit it requires on the part of those running it. This isn’t an “oh-let’s-ride-a-pony!” story. It’s real.

After Timmy discovers that the ranch may be shut down, she tries desperately to think of a way to keep it afloat. She comes up with one way, but is scared her parents will be to proud to accept other people’s help, so she initiates the plan herself. In the end it works and they are able to keep their ranch.

Now, this didn’t reflect a pattern of behavior – on the whole, Timmy had very good relationships with her parents and they all worked together fiercely to keep up the ranch. It was just this one instance in which she decided to be secretive.

On the opening page, Timmy writes that in February,”trees are leafless skeletons that walk around the house at night and speak in a language that sounds like cracking bones.” Later, when Timmy asks what’s going to happen to their ranch, her father teasingly replies “My crystal ball is broke.” [pg. 48] One man crosses himself when he is scared. A girl whittles a set of wooden animals, some of which are transhumanistc.

Timmy mentions riding into town and eating pizza and playing pool at the bar, but we don’t see any of this. She also mentions dancing to George Strait and The Dixie Chicks.

For Thanksgiving, Timmy and her dad bring food baskets to several poor people – one of whom she says had tried to kill himself and another who she says “sent money home to his wife, who spent it on her lover and the children they’d had together.” [pg. 111] Well then.

The book is divided up into twelve sections – one for each month of the year. At the beginning of several of the months, Timmy mentions which animals are in mating season. In one chapter they castrate calves. At a party, Timmy says, “I noticed that the guys treated me differently,” however she only spends a little bit of time with one boy, Brandon, who she thinks likes her, but with whom nothing really happens.

‘H***’ is used three times, God’s name twice, and ‘heck’ once.

Conclusion. Not my favorite story by far, but one that would probably interest ranching-minded kids.

Review © 2015 Laura Verret

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