From the time he was a small boy, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. “Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied.” — Wilson Bentley. SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY won the 1999 Caldecott Medal.
Wilson Bentley was born February 9, 1865. From the time he was young, growing up on a farm in Jericho Vermont, “Willie” Bentley loved to explore nature and show others his discoveries. He lived in an area that was called the “snowbelt” where they averaged 120 inches of snow a year. He was schooled at home with his mother as his teacher until he was fourteen years old and spent much of this time exploring nature. He would look at things he found outside under a microscope but the one thing he could not look at up close was snowflakes. He was intrigued by all forms of moisture and liked to keep records of the weather he observed.
As he grew older he learned many facts about snowflakes but longed for a way to preserve the beauty and intricateness in what he saw so he could share it with others. When he was fifteen he began drawing the snow crystals and drew hundreds of them. He read about a camera that had a microscope on it and just knew that he could take photographs of snowflakes if he had one. His parents sacrificed all that they owned to buy the camera for Willie. The camera created images on glass negatives and magnified the ice crystal from sixty-four to 3,600 times the actual size.
It was a learning process trying to figure out how to photograph the snowflakes and he spent a lot of time before he was able to actually get a picture of the beauty of what he saw in the snowflake. During that time period people thought he was silly for wanting to take pictures of snow but this did not stop Wilson from following his passion to study snowflakes and document what he saw and discovered.
“The average dairy farmer gets up at dawn because he has to go to work in the cow yard. I get up at dawn, too. But it is because I want to find some leaf, hung with dew; or a spider web which the dew has made into the most delicate ropes of pearls…I take my camera with me, get down on my knees in the wet grass, and photograph these exquisite bits of nature. Because I do this I can show these lovely things to people who never would have seen them without my help. They will get their daily quart of milk, all right. Other farmers will attend to that. But I think I am giving them something which is just as important.”-W.A. Bentley
I absolutely loved this book! “Willie” was definitely given the chance to follow his own interests and passions that led him to want to learn more. It was nice to read a story from the late 1800’s about a family that homeschooled.Even nicer was the fact that this was a real person!
The book is intended for children ages 4- 8 but my 12 year old daughter also really enjoyed the book. It presents a simple story about Wilson Bentley as he grew up and it is also illustrated with beautiful pictures. Included in the story though are basic facts about Wilson Bentley along with a lot of scientific information about snow crystals. I can see this being a good book also for older children and a way to explore more about his photographs and the science of snowflakes. Another book I found but have not read is called Snowflakes in Photographs which shows the pictures he took over a 50 year period. There is also a really educational and informative website to learn more about Wilson Bentley and his photographs- Official Snowflake Bentley Web Site
- Reading level: Ages 4-8
- Paperback: 32 pages
- Publisher: Sandpiper; Reprint edition (December 28, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547248296
- ISBN-13: 978-0547248295
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