Every once in a while a book that crosses my desk is one that I am
compelled to read immediately. "Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of
1917," by Sally M. Walker, was certainly in that category. What first
intrigued me about the story was that I had never heard of this disaster
Until recently, history writers for young people had seemed to skip over
the World War I era in favor of World War II. Few books of fiction and
nonfiction were available for the earlier period. Thankfully, we are
beginning to see some marvelous writing about the history of that time.
These books bring an understanding of the people and the world at the turn
of the century.
"Blizzard of Glass" is not about the war itself. It is about an event
that occurred on a winter day in a bustling harbor in Nova Scotia; an event
that killed thousands, left many of the populations of two cities homeless,
created broken families and many orphans. It was the worst man-made
explosion to occur until the atomic bomb.
Two ships that did not follow harbor protocol and misread ship-to-ship
signals collided in Halifax Harbour. One of those ships happened to be
loaded with explosives bound for the war zone. Innocent citizens going about
their ordinary morning routines were killed by the blast, buried in rubble
from collapsed buildings and showered with glass from the broken windows.
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Along with the description of the suffering, there is a story of
the courage the population exhibited, especially when faced with
rescue operations in the snowstorm the next day. Also discussed is
the outpouring of support that people of both Canada and the United
States provided for the survivors.
Ms. Walker is a gifted storyteller. She introduces us to the
communities and people so well that a bond is created with the
reader. The facts and figures are presented in the narrative, thus,
the story never loses momentum. The reader moves through many
emotions -- shock, grief, despair and comfort -- as the author
describes the days and months that follow. Photos are interspersed
throughout the text, often containing personal items belonging to
families described in the story.
At times "Blizzard of Glass" is not an easy story to read; it is
not for the faint of heart. However, it is an important opportunity
to explore an event that shaped not only the future of the people of
Halifax Harbour, but the times in which they lived.
For this book or other historical nonfiction stories, see the
staff at the youth services desk at the Lincoln Public Library, 725
[Text from file received from Louella Moreland,
Lincoln Public Library District]
(Ms. Lou's blog: