Perfect Picture Book Friday – My Brother Loved Snowflakes

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!

My Brother Loved SnowflakesThe Story of Wilson A. Bentley, the Snowflake Man

By Mary Bahr, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen

Published by Boyd Mills Press, 2002

Ages: 5-10

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.

Here’s a great snowflake lesson plan for young children, and a Fractal Snowflake lesson plan for ages 8-10, which includes more information on Wilson Bentley.

For more books and resources, please check out Perfect Picture Book Friday’s on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

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34 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – My Brother Loved Snowflakes

  1. I love a snow themed story, infact I love snow….. (dosen’t anyone who lives where they don’t get snow?) ..lol. This sounds like a story I would really enjoy. I clicked on the websites Joanna and loved the pics of snowflake books you can pick up in Amazon. BEAUTIFUL…. one of natures amazing wonders, the intricate beauty of a snowflake. Thankyou Joanna.

  2. I like the POV of this book. Plus, the additional books on the same topic. A great reminder that there are multiple ways to tell a story.

    • Joanna says:

      I caught myself thinking this week, Stacy, that for resources I immediately go to the internet when, in fact, there are often other books that can be useful too.

  3. Natalie says:

    What an interesting person Willie was! It goes to prove that there is truly a passion for everyone. Sounds like a very interesting and inspiring book. I will look for it during my next library trip. Thanks, Miss Marple! 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      Natalie, Willie is an inspiring and interesting individual. He was a skilled musician and had a gift of making people laugh, as well as this passion for snowflakes!

  4. This sounds like a wonderful glimpse into the life of Snowflake Bentley. This book sounds terrific and I love that you suggested the others to go along with it which sound equally interesting. I think books about people finding their passions and sticking to them are wonderful for kids to hear – very inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing this one, Joanna. I can’t wait to find it and read it!

  5. I can’t wait to see the snowflakes. This sounds like a wonderfully interesting book.

  6. Joanna says:

    I love this biography and find myself caught up in Willie’s fascination for snowflakes, Penny.

  7. Oh wow! This book is amazing. I love that you shared the others too, Joanna. I must add this to my ever growing list. This one is a keeper. I also love the POV coming from Willie’s brother. And the time period. Awesome! 🙂

  8. A perfect choice for me today — we have snow coming. I can not believe I’ve never heard of Bentley and his interest in snowflakes. Not only is this a beautiful and inspirational book, it also has a magical quality to it. I peeked at some of the photos. I’m sure I’d loe the biography about Bentley. What a lovely choice before the winter ends. Great activity suggestions and additional resources for kids and teachers.

  9. Loni Edwards says:

    What an interesting concept for a story! It sounds like a wonderful book. Your review was great. I will be looking for this one at the library. Thanks Joanna!

  10. Tracy Bermeo says:

    Joanna, what a great story. My kids still don’t believe me when I tell them that as hard as they try they will not find two matching snowflakes. I think I need to pick up this book!

  11. I’m so interested in this book. I’d love to find out about Willie and his passion for snowflakes. Thanks for the share Joanna 🙂

  12. I highly recommend Snowflake Bentley. Wish my library carried My Brother Loved Snowflakes, too.

    • Joanna says:

      Yes, Christie I nearly reviewed this instead, but chose to add it to my resources as further reading. I really like the POV in this one, it is very close.

  13. clarbojahn says:

    Thanks for this selection for Perfect Picture Book Fridays while many of us are still having snow in the forecast. I will appreciate it all the more when I remember that no snow flake is repeated twice. What a wonderful biography for kids to read and learn about their unique gift and to listen to their passion no matter how odd it seems. 🙂

  14. Darshana says:

    Interesting story. I like true stories which inspire kids to pursue their passions. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Oh, I love Snowflake Bentley, but wasn’t aware of this book. I must check it out!

  16. I have heard of W. A. Bentley before. His pictures of snowflakes are marvelous! I haven’t heard of this book! I’ll check it out! 🙂

  17. Hi Joanna,
    What a lovely choice for PPBF! I will file this info and the accompanying resources and other book suggestions for a winter presentation for my school programs.
    I love the message of the support and encouragement Willie’s family gave him…they were obviously all hard-working farm people…but with a love and appreciation of the arts and sciences…and their children!

  18. Joanna says:

    Vivian, I too loved the family in this story. They didn’t totally understand his passion, but they supported him and sacrificed amazingly to give Willie his first camera for his birthday!

  19. Heather says:

    Snowflake photography is so very amazing, but I never really thought about who first had the idea of capturing them on film! The illustrations look lovely and the story sounds interesting. thanks for sharing!

  20. What a great book to teach kids about science and snowflakes. Thanks for sharing!

  21. A great choice, Joanna! We have a book called Snowflake Bentley in the biography section, but this book sounds like it is written from a more intimate perspective than the one we have. Our third grade students study Bentley in their biography unit. I”ll have to check to see if this one is still in print. I’d like to offer it to my third grade teachers. Thanks!

  22. I’m finally getting time to comment on all the PPBFs I missed last Friday when I was up to my ears in another project!

    I remember when the book Snowflake Bentley arrived in our university library (I worked in Acquisitions, so we got to see the books first!), and I found it fascinating. I know already that I would love this one as well.

    Thank you! (Do I dare add yet another book to my growing to be read list?)

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