Snowflake Bentley - Jacqueline Briggs Martin

            Through an interesting combination of pictures, biography, and narrative factual information, Martin’s Caldecott Medal winning book reproduces the tale of Wilson A. Bentley, better know as Snowflake Bentley, Jericho, Vermont’s world famous authority on the structural composition of snow. Martin recounts the life of Bentley from a young farm boy who was joyfully obsessed with winter and, specifically, snowflakes until his death after becoming the leading authority on the subject. Bentley spent all possible time examining and theorizing over the make up of snow’s crystal structure, until his family sacrificed their savings in order to purchase him a camera capable of taking magnified pictures. From here began Bentley’s self-taught, scientific career on the nature of snow.

Azarian’s illustrative style at first seems crude until the mastery of it can be discerned. She provides muted color drawings that are more akin to woodprint illustrations and periodically surrounds them with snowflake filled panels housing the straightforward factual narrative. All are encased in thick black boarders giving the distinct impression that everything is a framed photograph. The portrayal bends well with Martin’s informative sidebars and narration that visually resembles prose poetry.

A subtlety enclosed messages that one must follow their dreams if they are to achieve success in life is included but not overwhelming so, perhaps because Bentley’s success was more intellectual than financial. While recommendable for younger readers, it was disappointingly that there was a complete lack of source information, compounded by the fact that a closing quote is give a footnote number without the accompanying note. Furthermore, the opportunity to provide facsimiles of the multitude of pictures that Bentley took over the course of a lifetime was wasted