Snowflake Bentley
Snowflake Bentley book
Caldecott Medal Winner 1999
snowflakeRead the story about Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley and examine the woodblock prints that illustrator Mary Azarian created for the book.

Mary Azarian, Illustrator

"It's hard for kids to know what they really want to do. But if there's something they really, really want to do, they should try it even if it doesn't seem practical. Snowflake Bentley is a perfect example of this. Nobody placed any value at all on his photographing snowflakes. But he just kept doing it. All too often we get pushed into ways of making a living that are practical, but don't satisfy the needs of the heart."

Mary Azarian was born on December 8, 1940, in Washington, D.C. She grew up on a small farm in northern Virginia. She started making woodcuts when she was a young girl, and then studied the printing process when she went to college.

After she married, Mrs. Azarian lived with her husband on a small farm in Vermont. They gardened, made maple syrup, and raised cows, chickens, sheep, horses, and oxen. In the 1960s she was a teacher for grades 1 through 8 in a one-room schoolhouse.

Mary Azarian frequently creates her artwork for books by using woodcut prints. This is a very time-consuming process. First, she draws each picture on a block of wood. She cuts away the parts of the picture that will be white. She then rolls ink over the design. She puts the inked block on the bottom of her nineteenth-century handpress. Next, she places paper on top of the block and rolls a heavy cylinder over the paper to print it. Finally, she hand-colors the picture with watercolors. Her woodcut prints have the look of rural folk art.

Block Prints Art Project - Students should use black or midnight blue construction paper and white tempera paint to create simple block prints of snow scenes.

block print of snow scene

  1. Sketch scenes on balsa wood or florist foam with a sharpened "fat" primary pencil. Press the simple design into the block using short, smooth strokes.
  2. If the block is thin, glue a cork or thread spool to the back to use as a handle when painting the stamp and pressing it onto paper.
  3. With a paintbrush, spread paint over the block and then press it to a piece of scrap paper to see if changes need to be made to the picture or in the amount of paint being used.
  4. When satisfied with the results, make a final print on the dark construction paper.
Snowflake Bentley with camera
snowflakeSnowy Similes - A Three-Fold Book - Students combine the art of cutting snowflakes with a lesson in writing similes. You will need : 8" x 18" piece of dark blue construction paper for book cover and loads of 5" squares of white copy paper with scissors and glue stick.

Step One - Make Six-Sided Paper Snowflakes - Follow the directions below to make paper snowflakes from 5" squares of white copy paper. After folding, cut out shapes along each side. Be careful not to cut off an entire side. The tip may be cut or not, depending on the design you desire. Carefully unfold the snowflake. Each student needs to make four snowflakes for the three fold book.

six sided snowflake directions

Step Two - Make Three-Fold Book - Fold the 8" x 18" construction paper into thirds. and glue it on the front of the book. Use a glue stick and carefully glue the snowflakes to the top of each inside page as shown below. Make sure to leave enough room at the bottom for your Simile to be added.

snowflake simile three fold book

Step Three - Make Snowy Similes - Define the term "simile" for students. ( A simile is a figure of speech in which two distinct things are compared by using like or as ) Share similes from the book ("Snow is as beautiful as butterflies or apple blossoms" and "Snow is as common as dirt".") Do some brainstorming with the class and then have students do four similes for their four snowflakes in the booklet.

Bentley child in snow

About Snowflake Bentley - After rereading the story, work with your students to create a list of events from Wilson Bentley's life. Student then use this information to complete the writing activity below. (PowerPoint file). Students compare the format of their writing paper with the way the pages are set up in the book. In the large box, write a paragraph about an event in Mr. Bentley's life. In the narrow box to the side, list three interesting facts about him. Then print.

Snowflake Links
Make a Flake Rags to Riches: Snowflake Bentley Quia Quiz
Let it Snow Lesson Plan Snow Crystals
Wilson Bentley Snow Crystal Display Snowflake Bentley Museum
Snowflake Bentley at Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site Winter and January links at Vicki Blackwell's Internet Guide for Educators
Author Jacqueline Briggs Martin's Homepage Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Snowflake Bentley Facts Poems and More

This page was last updated on Saturday, May 31, 2003.