Caldecott Medal

The True Story of the Snowflake Man

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Snowflake Bentley

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Ages 8 & up, 32 pages

Nonfiction

Snowflake Bentley tells the true story of Wilson Bentley who was a boy fascinated with snow. Wilson Bentley was born in 1865, in Vermont, where snow is as common as dirt. His happiest days were snow days. He could give his mother flowers and hold butterflies in his hand, but he couldn’t share snowflakes. When other children played in the snow, Wilson studied moisture and snow crystals. He discovered that the snow crystals had six branches and were masterpieces of design since no flake was ever the same. He wanted to share snowflakes’ beauty with others and drew pictures, but they often melted before he could finish the drawing. Wilson drew a hundred snow crystals for three winters until he learned about a camera with a microscope. His parents believed it was somewhat foolish to desire taking photos of snowflakes, but they eventually bought the expensive camera that took imagines on glass negatives and magnified 3,600 times its actual size. At first, there were many failures and Wilson wasn’t able to take a successful snowflake photo. However, he experimented with the light and finally produced a snowflake photo. Wilson could now share snow’s wonder with his snowflake photos. Colleges bought his photographs and artists used the photos for inspiration. Wilson Bentley was an expert at snow and was known as the Snowflake Man. When he was sixty-six years old, his photographs were published in a book. Sadly, he died less than a month after the book was published. A monument now stands in Wilson Bentley’s home town: Jericho, Vermont.

Of all the forms of water, the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow, that form in such quantities within the clouds during storms are incomparable the most beautiful and varied.

–Wilson Bentley

Snowflake Bentley won the Caldecott Medal in 1999. I really enjoyed this book, because it was written somewhat in two sections. There was a general story line of Wilson Bentley’s life growing up and his love for snowflakes, but there was also detailed information on the side with dates, education background, and the snowflake photography process. This book is a wonderful introduction to the science of snowflakes.

Snow Crystals 

by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys

Snowflake Photography

All Ages, 226 pages

Snow Crystals contains over 2,000 snowflake photographs that Wilson Bentley took. In 1931, the American Meteorologist Society gathered Bentley’s snowflake photographs and produced this book. The brief introduction describes scientific information about snow formation and the different shapes. The photographs are presented against a black background, so they really stand out. I showed this book to students and they were amazed, which I’m sure is exactly how you’ll feel after looking at these photographs.

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