Snowflake Bentley

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian

No two snowflakes are exactly alike.  We've all heard that.  But, how do we know?

We know this about snowflakes because of the curiosity, patience, and work of Wilson Bentley - a man who loved snow.  Bentley was born on a farm in Vermont in 1865.

This picture book details Bentley's life - showing him as a curious boy who loved the natural world, a teen who drew snow crystals he saw through a microscope, and a man who photographed snowflakes.

Bentley made careful records of his studies, and determined how snowflakes are formed.



"Many things affect the way these crystal branches grow.  A little more cold, a little bit less wind, or a bit more moisture will mean different-shaped branches.  Willie [Bentley] said that was why, in all his pictures, he never found two snowflakes alike."

Bentley sold copies of his snowflake prints for a few cents each, or gave them away as gifts.  Colleges and universities bought slide copies of his photographs.  Bentley held evening slide shows at friends' homes.

Bentley published his pictures and wrote about snow in magazines.  He gave speeches to scholars.

"The little farmer came to be known as the world's expert on snow, 'the Snowflake Man.'  But he never grew rich.  He spent every penny on his pictures."

Other scientists helped raise money so Bentley could publish his best photographs in a book.  It was published when he was 60 years old.

Azarian's woodcuts illustrate the text.  Several sidebars give additional information.  This book received the Caldecott Medal.  This was a favorite winter book in my house - of course, we live in Vermont and love playing in the snow.

You also might be interested in Snowflakes in Photographs by W. A. Bentley, a selection of 72 of Bentley's snowflake photos.


  1. Amy on January 28, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    We just read this book for the first time today! Loved it! I loved that it was simple enough for my two-year-old to understand but interesting enough that I was captivated. Thanks also for pointing out “Snowflakes in Photographs” because after reading the book, I was wanting to see some of Bentley’s actual photographs.

  2. sharann on January 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I’ve heard of this book a number of times now and still haven’t read it. I love the back story behind the book, too. Thanks for reminding me about it again.

  3. sustainablemum on January 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    This sounds like a lovely book, thank you for sharing.

  4. Mom and Kiddo @What Do We Do All Day? on January 31, 2013 at 12:05 am

    I thought this was an interesting story, too. Thanks for sharing your review at The Children’s Bookshelf.

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