A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Dick Gackenbach (Harry and the Terrible Whatzit) and Stephen Roos (The Gypsies Never Came).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Hilda Van Stockum (1908â€“2006), The Winged Watchman, George Ade (1866â€“1944) Fables in Slang.
- In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy accuses the U.S. State Department of being filled with communists. Is it a coincidence that today is National Stop Bullying Day? Read Bully by Judith Caseley.
- Happy birthday to the United States Weather Bureau, established in 1870. Read Weather by Seymour Simon.
- Itâ€™s Read in the Bathtub Day. Read King Bidgoodâ€™s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood.
On February 9, 1865, close to the end of the Civil War, Wilson Bentley was born in Jericho, Vermont. As a young boy he loved snow and began to keep a record of the weather. Studying snow crystals under a microscope, he discovered that each one was unique, with its own shape and design. He set out to find a way to photograph snow crystals, to record the beauty of individual drops of snow. Many of Bentleyâ€™s photographs, along with more information about him, can be found at the Jericho Historical Society website.
Recently, at a workshop for teachers and librarians in Boston, Childrenâ€™s book expert Judy Freeman asked, â€śWho ever heard of Wilson Bentley? That is, of course, until Jacqueline Briggs Martinâ€™s Snowflake Bentley was published?â€ť Few had, of course. Initially, publishing house after publishing house turned the book down. After all, not only did it focus on an obscure subject but it also did not have a child protagonist. Most of the book recounts Bentleyâ€™s struggles as an adult.
Fortunately, Ann Rider of Houghton Mifflin had read the text again and again and believed it would make a fine picture book, one that she felt would be perfect for Vermont artist Mary Azarian. Hence Ann sent it to me, the Publisher, for approval. I still remember the first moment I encountered this text typed on a few pages. I was sitting in my office at Houghton. Fortunately, I had closed the door to read, because when I came to the page toward the end when Bentley dies, I began to sob. If this manuscript, with no adornment, only words, could make me cry, I knew that it had to be published. After a lot of work on the part of Ann, Jackie Martin, Mary Azarian, and designer Bob Kosturko, Snowflake Bentley became one of those books where everything comes together in a superb package. The text was beautifully paced and written; Mary Azarianâ€™s woodcuts provided an extension of the words; Bobâ€™s design was understated and elegant. When the book won the Caldecott Medal, the committee praised all three elements. Great picture books never belong only to the artist or to the writerâ€”they always combine art, text, and design.
One of the first reactions to the book came from the editorâ€™s daughter Molly. She liked the text and even wanted to photograph snowflakes. But she added â€śI donâ€™t want to do it for my whole life.â€ť Still the bookâ€™s underlying theme about following your passion, or dream, in spite of adversity resonates with thousands of children.
Some teachers use Snowflake Bentley around this time of year for a month-long unit on snowflakes. I myself read it every year because it reminds me that we all need to follow our passion, no matter where it takes us. In the end, love, dedication, and perseverance triumph.
Originally posted February 9, 2011. Updated for .