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Snowflake Bentley

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1998
32 pages
ISBN: 0-395-86162-4

Ages 4 - 9

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." That boy was Willie Bentley, who lived in a part of Vermont where the annual snowfall is reported to be 120 inches. He was eager to learn, reading every volume of the family encyclopedias and keeping a record of the weather. He was especially fascinated by snowflakes. At 15, he began trying to capture the elusive snow crystals by looking at them under an old microscope and then drawing the beauty and individuality he observed. Bentley's passion about snowflakes was often misunderstood. "Neighbors laughed...'Snow in Vermont is as common as dirt,' they said. 'We don't need pictures.' Willie said the photographs would be his gift to the world." He felt called to photograph a leaf or spider web hung with dew. On the final page, Bentley's own words point out that although there were always others who would rise at dawn to milk dairy herds, his early morning work gave people something they otherwise would never have. Children may read either a story or a biography about this self-taught expert who developed his own technique of microphotography, because this book has two narratives. On the left and/or right side of most pages of the fiction, there is easy-to-read biographical information. Azarian's woodcuts, hand tinted with watercolors, serve as illustrations for everything in this intriguing picture book about a man who "loved the beauty of nature in all seasons." CCBC categories: Biography / Autobiography; Picture Books for Older Children; The Arts; Historical People, Places and Events; Seasons and Celebrations; The Natural World.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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