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Kirsten Snowbound! is part of the Short Stories collections.

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Story Summary

Kirsten holds baby Britta on her hip as she watches Mama, Aunt Inger and Lars drive away in the wagon. Kirsten and Anna are excited they'll be able to have fresh bread and rice porridge, tired of having to eat only wrinkly potatoes. Lisbeth points out that they should be thankful for the potatoes anyway in the same way Aunt Inger always does.

It is April, and potatoes is all the Larsons really eat since they used up pretty much all of their supplies. The winter was long and cold and they weren't able to drive into town until now. Kirsten, Anna, Lisbeth, Peter and little Britta were to stay at the cabin while the adults go to town. The kids begin to work on their chores, Peter feeding the chicken and cleaning the barn, Anna sweeping the cabin, Lisbeth taking care of Britta and Kirsten caring for and milking the cows. As Kirsten worked, she imagined the spices Mama would buy, and hoped she'd bring a letter from Papa that would say when he would be back from logging camp. When Kirsten stepped out of the barn, big flakes of snow had began to fall. Kirsten notes this was a spring snow and it would surly melt as quickly as it falls.

Kirsten Snowbound! 1

Kirsten and Peter watch the blizzard

By midday, the wind grew stronger, and the snow fell hard and fast. Kirsten and the others had put on their sweaters and were sitting by the fire place to stay warm while eating the lunch Inger had left for them. Anna refers to the snow as 'the old woman in the sky plucking goose feathers', an analogy that makes Peter laugh. Kirsten was concerned; she remembered the last time she was stuck in a snowstorm. If Mama and the others were out in the storm, they were in danger. Kirsten wishes that the wagon would return home right now but when Peter took a look out the window, he couldn't see the road or even the barn anymore.

Lisbeth frowned, saying that the adults would never try to drive home if they couldn't see the road, and they might stay with friends in town tonight. Peter says he wouldn't like it if Mama wasn't able to come home tonight as they'd be all alone otherwise. Anna points out there were five of them in the cabin, including Baby Britta, and Anna sees this whole event as a big adventure. Kirsten just hoped that the snow would stop soon.

The snow fell more thickly and the wind increased, making the cabin tremble and shake. Snow hissed through the cracks in the walls, windows and the door, and Kirsten and Lisbeth took turns to sweep the snow out. Lisbeth says she has never seen such a big blizzard, and Peter asks what a blizzard was. Anna explains it was a fierce storm like this one, an enormous snowstorm that wouldn't stop, then makes a scary face to tease Peter. On the verge of tears, Peter tells Anna not to say that. Kirsten tugged his ear, telling him not to be frightened as they were safe in their cabin and the others were safe in town. But Kirsten wondered if anyone could be safe in a blizzard like this one, even in a cabin.

Kirsten Snowbound! 2

Kirsten lets Caro into the barn.

Later that afternoon, they heard a rough scratching at the door. Peter wonders if it was a wolfe, Anna suggests it was someone who had gotten lost in the storm and saw their cabin light. The thing scratched harder and barked, and Kirsten realizes it was Caro the dog asking to be let in. Kirsten opened the door, but the wind tore it from her grip and it slammed against the wall. Caro ran in, and a cloud of snow began to rush into the cabin. Lisbeth began to try to shut the door, but the wooden hinge on the top had broken. Anna rushed in to hold the door steady so the bottom hinge wouldn't break either.

Baby Britta began to cry and Kirsten moved to pick her up, but Anna tells Kirsten to help get the snow out of the doorway so they could close the door. Kirsten attempted to use the broom, but the wind blew it out of her hands. She then tried to use her skirt while Peter used a soup pot to push the snow out, but the wind blew it back in. Kirsten cries out if they couldn't get the snow out, they'll just have to shovel it further inside. The two push the snow in, and the cousins pushed the door closed. Britta was crying harder, but Kirsten had to go get the hammer and nails to fix the broken door hinge to keep it closed. By the time Kirsten was finished, everyone was trembling with cold.

Kirsten finally comforted Britta, but everyone stared at her silently. Kirsten admits it was a mistake to open the door, but she had to let Caro in or else he'd have frozen to death outside. Lisbeth states they'd all have been frozen if they didn't shut the door, and they all had to be very careful that they don't make anymore mistakes. Peter asks Kirsten what Mama would do if she were here, and Kirsten says softly she would tell them to help each other to stay safe, and to think things through. Lisbeth gently agrees with Kirsten, saying they needed to have a plan.

They all plan on keeping the fire light all night, to go to bed now wearing all of their warmest clothes to keep warm. They push the bed closer to the fireplace and crawl into bed. Kristen and Lisbeth warn the others not to roll over Britta or let her crawl out, but Anna comments she was so bundled up she couldn't roll at all. Anna compares themselves to bear cubs crowded in a den and finds the whole thing exciting. Kirsten was scared, however, worrying bout how the blizzard could affect their house and leave them in the cold, or that Mama and the others were lost in this blizzard and would never return home at all.

Kirsten dreamed that someone was pricking her fingers, and she woke up to find her hand had slipped out and was lying on the snow that had blown onto the bed covers. Kirsten sat up and saw their lamp had gone out, but a faint light shined through the window. The fire had gone out and the cabin was bitterly cold, enough for clouds of breath to appear. The others were still asleep, and Kirsten checked to see if Britta was warm enough. Kirsten suddenly realized that Britta wasn't in the bed anymore.

Kirsten Snowbound! 3

Kirsten finds Britta with Caro under the bed

Kirsten began to search, worried she had crawled down the covers and got smothered, but she couldn't find her. Kirsten wakes Lisbeth, letting her know Britta was missing, and she got up right away. Lisbeth says Britta couldn't have gotten too far away, but Kirsten fears if she wasn't under the blankets, she could be frozen. Anna and Peter were awake by this point, and they helped look for Britta. Kirsten looked under the bed and saw Caro sleeping on a blanket, Britta sleeping right next to him. Kirsten announces she found Britta, and notices she was still warm thanks to Caro's thick fur. Kirsten states it was a good thing she let Caro in, and she kisses Britta, telling her she was very lucky their dog had saved her life.

Kirsten let Caro sit on the bed to help keep them warm while she got the fire started up again. There was only five pieces of wood and some hay left in the wood box, and they wouldn't be able to find the rest of their wood under all that snow. Lisbeth says if they don't panic, they'll think of something, and Kirsten thinks things through. Kirsten suggests they burn the stools and the bench, as they were something Papa could always make another one. They use the last of the wood and the legs on the smallest stool to light the fire. Peter suggests if they needed to, they could burn the trundle bed, their skis and even the table if they had to.

Anna asks if they had anything to eat, but Kirsten only finds frozen water and milk. Anna asks if there were any wrinkly potatoes, that she really didn't mind them, but Lisbeth states they had already eaten the last of them. Lisbeth does find some beans, and says they could boil them with the water once it melted. Anna, slightly disappointed, sighs that she really didn't mind the beans. Kirsten scrapped the ice from the window to get a better look outside. The snow and wind had stopped and the sun was shining, but Kirsten could hardly recognize the farm under all the snow.

Lisbeth peeked outside, asking Kirsten if she thought they could shovel their way to the barn. Kirsten says they'll have to try; the animals still needed to be looked after, and it might be a long time before the others come home. Kirsten whispers to Lisbeth, asking if the others would come Lisbeth clasps Kirsten's hands in hers, saying their plan was to dig a path to the barn, and to not think of anything else.

Kirsten Snowbound! 4

Lisbeth and Kirsten dig a path to the barn

Lisbeth and Kristen began to work on shoveling a path, using the fireplace shovel and the soup pot. After was seemed like ages, Kirsten looked back to see how far they'd come. It was only a little way, and Kirsten's arms were already aching. Kirsten states unless they worked faster, they wouldn't get to the ban before dark.

Lisbeth wishes they had another shovel and that Lars were here too, bu Kirsten interrupts her, saying she heard a whinney. Kirsten looked out to see Blackie the horse struggling down the road, puling a sleigh with Lars, Aunt Inger and Mama in it. Kirsten and Lisbeth began to wave, laughing and crying at the same time as the others waved back. Kirsten cried with relief that everyone was safe, that they had stuck together and made it through the blizzard. Blackie whinnied again, as if he knew he was almost home.

Meet The Author

Janet Shaw talks about a snowstorm that went through her town.

Looking Back: The Blizzard of 1888

Discusses a blizzard that hit the Midwest in January of 1888, and various stories from the time.

Activity: Have a Snow Day!

Has ideas for what to do on a snow day, and a hot chocolate recipe.

References

  1. Explicitly stated; also, Britta's portrait state that she is eleven months old, and she was born the prior May.
  2. The family is still in a cabin, so this must be before the Larsons move.

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