I wanted to slip this winter biography into Picture Book Perfect Friday while many of us still have snow around us. Not only is snow awesome for sledding, skiing and snowmen, but it is one of nature’s beauties!
By Mary Bahr, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen
Published by Boyd Mills Press, 2002
Themes: Snowflakes, nature, weather, homeschooling, biography
Opening/Synopsis: “Snowflakes liked my brother, Willie. And why not? Nobody cared about them the way he did. For Willie winter couldn’t come soon enough. Snow filled his life like cow’s milk fills a bucket.”
Set in Vermont in the late nineteenth century, the author writes this story from the perspective of the Snowflake Man’s brother, Charles. Because Willie’s life is recounted by a firsthand observer and family member, this ensures a warm, intimate look at this boy who is fascinated by water, especially its frozen form. Willie is a boy with a passion, perseverance and curiosity. Despite all the farm chores, his musical talents and home school work, Willie manages to spend all his free time on his snowflake research. With support from his family, he was, while still a teen, the first person ever to photograph a snowflake.
Why I like this book: It is a warm, empowering story of a boy who follows his passion, in this case, in science. Over his lifetime he photographed more than 5000 snowflakes, proving beyond doubt, the uniqueness of each one. I have always found this information mind-blowing, miraculous and inspirational. I love the support of Willie’s farming family in this book, and I think it can help children encourage the unique giftedness in each other. It is beautifully illustrated in pastels, depicting warm, verdant Vermont summers, and harsh, gruelling Vermont winters, and, of course, many unique snowflake crystals.
Activities and Resources: I want to recommend three other books to read along with this one: Another retelling of the story, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1999, “Snowflake Bentley” by Jaqueline Briggs Martin; a fabulous book of Willie’s photographs of snowflakes (which kids could copy) “Snowflakes in Photographs” by W. A. Bentley; and a beautiful, poetic non-fiction book called “The Snowflake, A Water Cycle Story” by Neil Waldman.