Writing Wednesday: Using SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY as a Writing Mentor Text

snowflake bentley


By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Houghton Mifflin, 1998


I use this book for many things in the classroom. It’s a favorite we return to again and again. It’s a picture book biography of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who lived on a farm but was passionate about photographing snowflakes when it had never been done before.

Since it’s snowy season here in North America, this is a great time to break out this book to read and enjoy, but also to use it as a mentor text for writing. It’s also a fabulous way to work in nonfiction as a writing mentor text.

Writing Skills:

* Organization of the text

* Leads (beginning lines)

* Sensory words

* Figurative Language

* Vivid Verbs

* Description

* Specificity of language


More Mentor Text Resources

Last week, I introduced my teacher useletter. I will feature writing tips and mentor text tips in this free useletter for teachers. Also, if you sign up, you get a FREE 50 page MENTOR TEXT TIPS printable e-book. Sign up on the sidebar to the right.

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Glossary of Mentor Text Terms

List of all Picture Book Month Posts



  1. Fabulous Marcie!
    I feel SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY is the ticket for parents, children & writers of children’s literature.
    This collaboration, with Mary Azarian, which includes a fetching book design of vertical sidebars on pages, is the ultimate go-to reference on picture book biography.

    It takes a real child who was unknown, mentions solitary young days, & shares how his dedication to a hobby that became a life’s pursuit was what always made his heart beat faster. So following that is what made all the difference in his discoveries.

    The writing is spare. Study the choice of what to mention & what to let fall aside.
    (Although art may not be a focus in mentor texts, the decision to use the wood block folk art style illustrations, added to the 1999 Caldecott medal.)

    Even if you are a tropical island child, who can’t stand the snow, this book will set your heart on fire. It is one of my all time loves.

    Also, when I set out to write my first picture book biography, it is the story that editor Jennifer Emmett told me I should study. And, I’m so glad that she recommended it.

  2. My kids and I loved reading that book! We even got Bentley’s book of snowflake photos after that, to see what it was all about. It was very well told. Another biography we enjoyed recently is Barnum’s bones. What an amazing story!

    • The photographs are amazing, aren’t they? I will check out Barnum’s Bones. Haven’t read that one yet.

      • Definitely worth a look. Barnum Brown holds the world record for finding the most dinosaur bones in the world. His parents named him Barnum after P.T. Barnum, because they thought he’d do something important with his life. What a great lesson for kids that anything is possible, if you really want it.