Snowflake Bentley

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by Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Illustrated by Mary Azarian. (Houghton, 1998 ISBN 0395861624. Order Info.) Picture Book Nonfiction. Grades 2+.

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Review

cover art

Snowflake Bentley celebrates one man's lifelong passion. Wilson Bentley had been fascinated by snowflakes since he was born in Vermont where, as the text says, "Snow in Vermont is as common as dirt." His parents supported his interest, spending their savings to buy him a camera and microscope. His thousands of photographs are still used in studies today. Martin tells the tale simply with sidebars adding further information about the science behind Bentley's studies. Azarian's illustrations are woodcuts and suit the lyrical text perfectly.

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Things to Talk About and Notice

  • Think back to the things you were interested in last year or a few years ago. What things did you collect? How long were you interested in them? Discuss your current interests and compare them on a scale of one to ten with ten being Wilson Bentley's level of interest in snowflakes and one being barely interested.

  • Read some biographies about other people whose lifelong interest in something is at least understandable if not shared by you. Find ways of presenting the lives of these people to others in your discussion group.

  • Brainstorm a list of words that you connect with snow. Find art prints by various artists who depict snow. Attempt to find a way to use each word on your list when describing these works of art.
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Activities

  • We've all cut out snowflakes and, of course, such an activity could be used here, but why not take a lesson from Mary Azarian's work and use print materials to make snowflake patterns and designs.

  • Compare snow crystals to those formed by other substances. Find as many ways as possible to observe and record your observations of a variety of crystals.

  • How much snow really falls in Vermont in a typical year? Compare that to the snow or rainfall in your area.

  • Snow has inspired many poets some more successful than others. Find and share a snow poem that has meaning for you. Try Jack Prelutsky's It's Snowing! It's Snowing (Morrow, 1984 ISBN 0688015131. Order Info.). Find a way to illustrate and display your poem.
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Related Books

  • cover art The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes by Kenneth Libbrecht. (2010, Voyageur. ISBN 9780760336762. Order Info.) Nonfiction Picture Book. 48 pages. Gr 4-9.
    Using a microscope Libbrecht, a physicist, takes photos of snowflakes. The photos are simply stunning. No unit on snow or winter is complete without this or one of his books for adults. This is a wonderful science and photography book. Use it with other books about scientists because we get a glimpse of Libbrecht's work through this book. This also belongs in any unit on crystal formation or weather. Instructions on how to cut a scientifically correct snowflake out of paper are included. Read More.
  • cover artWalter Wick's A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder (Scholastic, 1997 ISBN 0590221973.Order Info.) is a perfect follow-up book to The Secret Life of Snowflakes. Wick uses stop-action photographs to demonstrate the properties of water and one incredible series of photographs and suggested activities revolve around snowflakes.
  • cover art Snow by Uri Shulevitz. (1998, Farrar, Strauss. ISBN 0374370923. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr PreK-4.
    There are few words in the entire book as the illustrations carry the story. Villagers go about their business. The text points us to a tiny dot we might otherwise have missed--one snowflake. A boy and his dog don't miss it and they react joyfully even though the grandfather downplays it. After all, it's only one snowflake. More and more snowflakes appear in the sky and the boy and dog maintain that it is indeed snowing. Townspeople, the radio and even the television proclaim that it is not, but the flakes keep coming. There are wonderful images of the townspeople, covered and bent over with snow while denying its existence but only the boy and dog enjoy it. This is a book about the weather and the joy it can bring. Read More.
  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Random House. 1979. Order Info.
  • Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day. Viking, 1962. 32 pp. Order Info.
  • Steig, William. Brave Irene. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986. 32 pp. Order Info.
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