Winners Wednesdays: Snowflake Bentley

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This 1997 Caldecott Award-winning book written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian follows Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley’s story of how he became passionate about snow, nature, and photography and the legacy he leaves behind today.  Bentley has always been intrigued by and loved snow from a small age, and his curiosity soon turned into a fiery passion.  In conjunction with his love for nature and photography, Bentley spent the rest of his life attempting to photograph snowflakes, capturing break-taking and seemingly impossible pictures for the time.

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Though the people around him teased and discouraged him and though he was considered a failure by economic and social standards, he prevailed and is today the founder of scientific interest in snow.  Because he followed his dreams and did what was most important to him, today’s society can thank him for his tremendous success.  Told in narrative form, children are able to read this book for fun but can also learn so much more about history, interesting facts about Bentley, and snow through inserts at the front and back of books as well as little snippets throughout the book.  This is an extremely informative story that can increase children’s domain knowledge and, at the same time, inspire them to pursue what they find interesting and are passionate about even if they are ridiculed or criticized.

The interesting and lyrically written storyline is tremendously enhanced by Azarian’s breathtakingly beautiful and intricate relief prints.  Her precise and detailed black outlines along with the dimensional and vibrant coloring bring Snowflake Bentley’s story to life, and enraptures the reader.  Azarian herself is an inspiration as well, saying in her Caldecott acceptance speech that she wanted to do her part and share Bentley’s story while living out her own passions so that she can become successful as well–not in the monetary or fame sense, but in the sense that she is impacting people by the art she creates.

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This book is a fantastic way to inspire children to pursue something they love or think is interesting even in the face of ridicule or a discouragement and also a fun and appropriate way to introduce non-fiction biography to children.

-Angela Wang

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