Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Snowflake Bentley

Snowflake Bentley

Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator:   Mary Azarian 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Houghton Mifflin, 1998   ISBN: 978-0395861622

Little Willie Bentley loved the snow. He loved to play in it and he loved to look at it comparing the snow to “apple blossoms.” Unlike apple blossoms however snowflakes could not be looked at for long because they quickly melted. It was hard to enjoy and study the snow when it disappeared so fast. Then, using a microscope which his mother gave him, Willie began to look at snowflakes up close and he would quickly draw the ice crystals that he saw through the eyepiece. Even working as quickly as he could Willie was never able to finish his drawings before the beautiful crystal formations melted.

Then, at last, Willie’s parents bought him a microscope which had a camera attached to it. Now Willie could photograph the snowflakes before they had a chance to melt and he would have their images on glass plates to study at his leisure. After many months of failure Willie finally figured out how to take the photographs. He learned how snowflakes form and that each and every snowflake is unique.

In time people began to recognize how beautiful and useful Willie’s photographs were and he sold many copies of his pictures to people all over the country. When he was sixty-six Willie’s book “Snow Crystals” was published and it is still read and enjoyed by scientists, artists and others who live all over the world.

With Mary Azarian’s superb woodcuts to illustrate it this fascinating book captures the essence of a man who did what he loved even though he was made fun of and even though he did not make any money from his passion. Bentley took his photographs because the beauty of snow fascinated him and because he wanted to share the beauty that he saw with others. We are able to see that though he was a scientist who studied the weather and snow formation, he was also an artist at heart who was happiest when he was capturing the images of snowflakes on plates of glass.