cover image A Blizzard Year

A Blizzard Year

Gretel Ehrlich, Ehrlich. Hyperion Books, $15.49 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-2309-3

Novelist, poet and nonfiction author Ehrlich (Islands; The Solace of Open Spaces) ventures confidently onto new terrain in her eloquent and affecting debut children's novel. Timmy, a 13-year-old girl who lives with her parents on a sprawling ranch in the northern Rockies, records the events of a calamitous year, during which a brutal March blizzard almost wipes out the family's cattle herd. Each chapter, named for a month, opens with a lyrical passage that sets the natural scene. In February, ""Snow is polished by wind, and the world looks smooth; trees are leafless skeletons that walk around the house at night and speak in a language that sounds like cracking bones."" Eclipsing Timmy's joy at the signs of spring's arrival is her fear that the bank will repossess the financially devastated ranch. Yet the family members-along with a kind ranch hand and his adopted daughter-never lose hope as they continue to care for the land and the surviving animals. Timmy's pluck and ingenuity lead to a bright resolution. Ehrlich's prose, as pristine and spare as her snow-covered landscape, portrays the quiet drama of the changing seasons-in both their constancy and unpredictability-as well as a family attuned to nature's every nuance. Ages 9-13. (Nov.)