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Snowflake Bentley (Caldecott Medal Book) Hardcover – September 28, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Most children are captivated by snow, but how many go on to make it their lifework? This beautiful biography, winner of the 1999 Caldecott Medal, tells the true story of a Vermont farm boy who was mesmerized by snowflakes. Wilson Bentley was fascinated by the six-sided frozen phenomena, and once he acquired a microscope with a camera, his childhood preoccupation took on a more scientific leaning. Bentley spent his life taking countless exquisite photographs (many that are still used in nature photography today), examining the tiny crystals and their delicate, mathematical structures. Jacqueline Briggs Martin tells this tale with simple, graceful prose that will engage children's imaginations. Edifying and snowflake-scattered sidebars offer more information about Bentley's methods and snowflake science. The artwork of Mary Azarian, whose 19th-century hand-press illustrations decorate the charming Barn Cat, shines once again in Snowflake Bentley, with woodcuts that reveal an appreciation for detail as well as for the man who loved snow. The lovely illustrations and equally fresh text will inspire and comfort youngsters (and grownups too) who wish they could capture snowflakes all year long. (Ages 4 to 8) --Brangien Davis

From Publishers Weekly

Azarian's (A Farmer's Alphabet) handsome woodcuts provide a homespun backdrop to Martin's (Grandmother Bryant's Pocket) brief biography of a farmboy born in 1865 on the Vermont snowbelt who never lost his fascination with snowflakes. Wilson A. Bentley spent 50 years pioneering the scientific study of ice crystals, and developed a technique of microphotography that allowed him to capture the hexagonal shapes and prove that no two snowflakes are alike. Martin conveys Bentley's passion in lyrical language ("snow was as beautiful as butterflies, or apple blossoms"), and punctuates her text with frequent sidebars packed with intriguing tidbits of information (though readers may be confused by the two that explain Bentley's solution of how to photograph the snowflakes). Hand-tinted with watercolors and firmly anchored in the rural 19th century, Azarian's woodcuts evoke an era of sleighs and woodstoves, front porches and barn doors, and their bold black lines provide visual contrast to the delicate snowflakes that float airily in the sidebars. A trio of Bentley's ground-breaking black-and-white photographs of snowflakes, along with a picture and quote from him about his love for his work, is the icing that tops off this attractive volume. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Series: Caldecott Medal Book
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1st edition (September 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395861624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395861622
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley, winner of the 1999 Caldecott Medal. She grew up on a farm in Maine and now she lives in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a seasoned primary teacher eager for a new slant on teaching the traditional science unit on water, I was delighted to find Snowflake Bentley having been familiar with him from his famous pictures of snowflakes. Living in Alaska, snow is about the best way to start. I quickly bought the book impressed with the illustrations and the sidebar full of detailed facts which my second graders enjoyed and the story line which was more accesible to my first graders. Snowflakes will never be the same again for them! They loved it and loved Bentley for his patience and curiosity for nature. Additionally, they admired the parents of Bentley who spent most of their earnings on his sought after camera for his famous study. Go out and buy it before the snow melts!
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109 of 115 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Allison ( on May 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This children's book, illustrated by Mary Azarian, won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for best illustrations in a book for children. It is the story of Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931) of Jericho, Vermont, who had a passion for studying snowflakes. Having developed a technique for photographing snowflakes, he spent years collecting and giving lectures in the midst of running his farm: a true farmer-scientist. He even wrote a text called Snow Crystals. He noted the six sidedness of most crystals and a few three-sided. One wonders what he would have said upon hearing that some researchers in the late 1990s had found two identical snowflakes since he had never been able to find two that were alike. This book is a celebration not only of the man but of our love and interest in the natural world. Children will enjoy this book with its magnificent woodcuts immensely.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This lovely book is a perfect blend of fascinating real-life story and beautiful illustration. I am purchasing it for grandchldren in hope that some of them are encouraged to follow their dreams, some are persuaded to persist in exploring their interests and some just bask in the beauty. I think children up to ten will enjoy this book.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Snowflake Bentley is one of the best biographies I have seen for children because it combines so many elements of a worthwhile children's book so successfully. First, the book deserves its Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustrations from the gorgeous hand-colored woodcuts that provide a wonderful old-fashioned feel. Second, the book also describes the beauty of snowflakes and shows both abstract designs of them as well as some of Mr. Bentley's own photographs. Third, many of the fundamental science facts about snowflakes are described (I learned more about why snowflakes are unique than I had ever known before). Fourth, Mr. Bentley's life is inspirational in several ways. He followed and lived his passion. His parents also supported him in the passion, in a wonderfully loving way. He succeeded in bringing beauty to the world that has changed the way everyone sees it. In doing so, he has lightened the burdens of winter a little for us all.
Mr. Bentley was "a boy who loved snow more than anything else in the world." Where others saw cold and discomfort in his home of Jericho, Vermont, he saw beauty. That was good becaues the snowfall averages around 120 inches a year there. "He said snow was as beautiful as butterflies, or apple blossoms." In the good weather, he could net butterflies or carry apple blossoms to show to others, but snowflakes were more difficult to share. His mother (who was his teacher until he was 14) gave him an old microscope, and he began to look at snowflakes in the cold. He noticed that no two were alike, and began to draw them.
At 17, he learned that you could photograph what you could see in a microscope. His parents made an enormous investment and got him one.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Blessed be the non-fiction picture books of the world that deal with obscure and unknown heroes with regularity, for they shall be the award winners in the end. I suspect that Jacqueline Briggs Martin's Caldecott Award winning book, "Snowflake Bentley" is perhaps how most people today have come to learn about Wilson Bentley and his lifelong habits and dreams. In my own personal experience, I never ran across Bentley's name (to the best of my knowledge) until I read this sweet story. To my mind, it is deserving of its praise.

Author Jacqueline Briggs Martin is not above beginning her tale with a particularly evocative and intriguing sentence like, "In the days when farmers worked with ox and sled and cut the dark with lantern light, there lived a boy who loved snow more than anything else in the world". Meet Wilson Bentley. Your typical farm boy with atypical aspirations. Willie loved catching snowflakes with the hopes of preserving them for others to see. Unfortunately, he couldn't find a way of keeping track of them. Drawing them didn't work because the snow crystals would melt before he finished sketching them out. Then, at the age of seventeen he saw a camera with its own microscope for sale. Winning the award for "Best Parents Ever", Willie's ma and pa used their savings to buy their teenaged son the camera he always wanted. As the book says it, "cost as much as his father's herd of ten cows". After more than a year of attempts and failures, Willie finally managed to photograph a snowflake successfully. Time passed and Willie perfected his technique. He didn't limit himself to winter beauty, however. Mr. Bentley also photographed spider webs and grasshoppers covered in dew, amongst other things.
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