As a child I longed for snow every winter about this time: the magic of quiet flakes falling, the muted squishes of passersby, slowed traffic, and ditches filled with drifted snow. Wasn’t there more snow when I was a kid? This year I wanted to start my winter thinking with snow, not holidays, so I started collecting books about snow for the display cart in the Children’s Room. What I found confirms that I am not alone in my fascination: there are hundreds of books at every reading and interest level. Being a non-fiction sort of person, I immediately gravitated to Caldecott medal winner Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, with perfect art by Mary Azarian. Bentley was a real person. Growing up in rural Vermont in the last half of the 1800s, he was fascinated by snow even as a child, which makes his story accessible to children. He was the first to photograph snowflakes.
This is what I suggest for fun family research:
Check out a copy of Snowflake Bentley from the Children’s Room. From the adult area find Snow Crystals by W. A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys (1931, a reprint of the original Bentley publication), and Art of the Snowflake: a photographic album by Kenneth Libbrecht (2007), physicist and snowflake photographer. These are very usable by children for the same reason they are by adults, they are mostly pictures. Even a brief look through them will give a new understanding of snow. The rows and rows of snowflake photographs are stunning, and make you pause and try to see the myriad tiny differences. Libbrecht adds short comments and evocative quotations that can augment your group look through his book. Martin’s Snowflake Bentley will confirm the fact that kids can have goals and intense interests that may seem absurd to their adults, but can make a difference in the world.
For the older child or the adult who wants to know more, Libbrecht also wrote The Snowflake, Winter’s Secret Beauty, which offers very readable interesting science and beautiful photograhs by Patricia Rasmussen. He even wrote Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes. How would you use such a thing? The library does not have it: you might want to Interlibrary Loan it and find out.
Supplement your family research by going to the Snowflake Bentley website and reading the bio, picking out the parts that might interest your child. And above all, have family fun.