Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

From gently falling flakes and flurries, to swirling gusts and mounting drifts, snow-falls always look beautiful. One of the first crafts I remember doing in school is creating cut-out snowflakes. Sometimes a flake will stick to a window and you can see it’s sort of pokey looking. But then it blows away, or worse, melts.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book chronicles the work of Willie Bentley, the man who showed us the snowflake. Bentley loved snow so much he dedicated his free time to studying it. He perfected the photographic technique needed to capture snowflakes on film so that the whole world could see how beautiful they are. He knew that seeing a single flake under a microscope wasn’t good enough. He wanted their crystal-like beauty to last and be enjoyed by all.

Illustrator Mary Azarian’s woodcuts set a perfect tone for Martin’s text. Together, they remind me a time gone by. A time my grandparents knew. A time that can still be found in the quiet of a gentle snow-fall. I enjoyed how the text was displayed with more biographical or technical details in sidebars and the general story-line at the bottom. As a reluctant reader in my youth, I really liked books like this (thinking Magic School Bus) where the text was broken up. I could choose what to read and keep moving on if I thought it was “too much text.” I enjoyed going back later and discovering more parts to the story.

As winter comes to a close and the last of the snow is melting remember Snowflake Bentley’s passionate efforts. I know snow can seem a bother. But if you didn’t this year, remember next winter to take a moment to enjoy the beauty that is a snowflake. 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 1998     Pages: 32
Rating: 4.5 Stars     Source: Christmas gift! Thanks, Mom!

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