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The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

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Before a snowflake melts on your tongue, it makes an epic journey. This is the beautiful, full-color story of that journey, step by step, from a single snowflake’s creation in the clouds, through its fall to earth, to its brief and sparkling appearance on a child’s mitten. Told by a scientist who knows snowflakes better than almost anyone, the story features his brilliant photographs of real snowflakes, snowflakes forming (in the author’s lab), water evaporating, clouds developing, ice crystals, rain, dew, and frost--all the elements of the world and weather that add up, flake by flake, to the white landscape of winter. Aimed at readers from 6 to 12, The Secret Life of a Snowflake gets to the heart of one of nature’s most magical phenomena while making the wonder of the snowflake all the more real.

48 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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Kenneth Libbrecht

15 books8 followers

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5 stars
125 (56%)
4 stars
64 (28%)
3 stars
22 (9%)
2 stars
6 (2%)
1 star
4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,021 reviews97 followers
May 20, 2017
To see this review as well as this week's favorite children's books please visit www.readrantrockandroll.com

The Secret Life of a Snowflake has to be one of the most beautiful children's science books I've seen. The author, Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, is a professor of physics and studies crystals. Not only does the book contain many photographs of Dr. Libbrecht's snowflake finding's, it also teaches facts about them. Many of these facts I never knew as an adult which makes this a book for everyone. Some of them include:

-Why is snow the color white?
-How are snowflakes made?
-Why are they all so different?
-Why do snowflakes all have 6 branches?

The author even covers the different states of water, clouds, the birth of a snowflake, and provides a pattern for cutting your own paper snowflake.

This is a wonderful book that would be perfect for applying in a science curriculum for kids. If you simply can't wait to read this book, you can visit his website at www.snowcrystals.com. Here you will find countless photos of close-up snowflakes. Simply Amazing.

Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,787 reviews673 followers
October 29, 2014
Many of us won't pick up a "children's book" unless we are reading with a child. By doing so, we may miss out on a lot.

This book is suitable for children and young adults but it was also beneficial to me. It relates a great many things about snowflakes that I didn't know or forgot. Libbrecht communicates both his passion and understanding of his subject. His photographs are exquisite and reinforce his discussion of both the science and artistry of snowflakes and how they come to be.

It is straightforward; it is short; its prose is clear; and, it is beautiful.
Profile Image for Melissa Coyle.
201 reviews46 followers
February 22, 2015
This book is a good companion to Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. This book by Kenneth Libbrecht who is a professor of physics at Caltech, where he studies how crystals grow, will inform young ones what a snowflake is and how it develops and how beautiful each snowflake is by his gorgeous photography. This book even gives you directions to make paper snowflakes. A definite must for your children's science shelf.
Profile Image for Julia.
277 reviews53 followers
January 19, 2018
Fantastic! A wonderful follow up to Snowflake Bentley. Beautiful photos and very interesting.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,335 reviews
December 11, 2020
So informative and the photography is exquisite. Highly recommend. My five and seven year olds enjoyed it and I even learned a few things.
Profile Image for Sarah Nelson.
Author 8 books10 followers
September 3, 2019
Doing some weather reading this summer, and this book about snow and snowflakes is lovely. Libbrecht is a scientist who has devoted his career to studying snow, but writes about it in lay-friendly language. I learned so much! I will appreciate this winter's snow on so many new levels this year.
Profile Image for Karen Ball.
484 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2011
What do snowflakes have to do with the Cal Tech Physics Department? A lot, come to find out! Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht uses snowflakes to study how crystals grow, and how temperature affects the direction and depth of crystal growth. Everyone's heard that no two snowflakes are alike, but because Libbrecht has documented the many different ways snowflakes develop and form, he's also managed to do the math to tell how many different kind of snowflakes there can be, and it's a bigger number than the number of atoms in the universe. (Get OUT! Really??) Why is snow white? Why do we sometimes get giant clumpy flakes, and sometimes tiny powdery flakes? How come snowflakes never have 5 or 7 "arms"? This illustrated guide makes understanding the science of snow easy, and the photos are incredible! Dr. Libbrecht takes his own photos of snowflakes, using a microscope, so you get o see all of the magical hexagonal details. He's also written other books on snow, and keeps a CalTech webpage about snow. Aimed for grades 4-6, this is a delightful, fun read for winter.
Profile Image for Aine.
30 reviews1 follower
September 8, 2012
I was thrilled this book arrived from the library just in time for a unit study on snow I did with my "love to learners" (see Thomas Jefferson Education). The science is written in such a manner that the kids were FASCINATED, not bored. The photographs are beautiful, there is instructions on how to produce a geometrically correct snowflake using paper, and illustrations to represent the reality of size. On a scale of 1-5, I give this book a SIX. Yes, it's that good.
Profile Image for Susan.
169 reviews
March 9, 2017
This is a very interesting book and written well for young people to understand and enjoy. There are lots of pictures and projects to interest young minds, and older ones as well!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
298 reviews
December 15, 2018
This book is awesome! I grabbed in from the seasonal shelf at the library because there weren't a lot of Christmas books left and I thought my kids might be mildly interested. Turns out they were completley fascinated by it, and so was I!

Kenneth Libbrech is a scientist who takes photos of snowflakes under a microscope. The book is filled with his beautiful images, as well as lots of interesting facts about how snowflakes are formed. I definitely learned some things I didn't know before.

On one page he teaches us how to make a realistic paper snowflake. My kids and I had so much fun getting out the scissors and making our own snowflakes together. We also got sugar and salt out of the cupboard and examined the crystals up close. We searched for hexagon shapes in our house. We examined the snowflake ornaments on our tree to see if they were designed correctly. We discussed water molecules and condensation and light reflection in a way that was fun and interesting.

If you want to get your kids engaged in science in a fun way, I highly recommend this book!
23 reviews
June 23, 2017
Summary: This book tells the journey of a snowflake as it is created in the clouds, to the way it melts on your tongue. It is told by a scientist and includes photographs of actual snowflakes. You will learn about the development of snowflakes, how they form and more.

Review: This book is fabulous to spark students’ interests in the many wonders of science as well as photography! Students will be amazed by the close up photographs of snowflakes that are included within this book. They will see snowflakes as they never have before!

Other Books you might pair with/ connect to: This book could connect to Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. In this book, Wilson Bentley had an enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes and realized that no two snowflakes are alike! This is also addressed within The Secret Life of a Snowflake.

Delicious quote: “No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.”
Profile Image for Sarah.
218 reviews1 follower
October 26, 2017
This is such an excellent book! Not only does it go into the science of how snowflakes form, but the stunning photographs get you up close and personal with the snowflakes themselves. I also really love that the author goes behind the scenes to show how he takes photos of snowflakes. It's also great that he shows the reader how to correctly cut a paper snowflake - with 6 sides. :-)
This is a really fascinating read, and, I think, a book worth buying!
49 reviews
December 18, 2018
I find the book’s descriptions and photographs to be intriguing and very good beginner book about snowflakes.
I also like how he shows that not all snowflakes are symmetrical, as much as they try to grow symmetrical, but all are beautifully unique.
It gives me comfort when I have tried to make pretty paper snowflakes and can say they are pretty snowflakes.
I hope to read his other books to learn more about snowflakes.
Profile Image for Jenna (Falling Letters).
658 reviews58 followers
July 3, 2019
Plucked this off the shelf at the library the other evening after spotting it while I was putting stickers on some books. Incredible photographs of all sorts of up close snowflakes, along with easy to follow descriptions of how they’re formed. I had never seen a lopsided snowflake before! I also like how Libbrecht narrates the book by explaining how photographing and studying of snowflakes is his hobby.
Profile Image for Alisha.
788 reviews7 followers
December 20, 2017
This is a great book about snowflakes for elementary age students. The pictures are bright and colorful. The book has lots of interesting information about how snowflakes form and why all snowflakes have six-sides. I'm hoping to share this book in my STEM library program for children.
November 27, 2019
It’s a cool quick read!

Didn’t know it was a children’s book but it goes through how snowflakes are made and has some beautiful pictures.
Profile Image for Adrianne Rosal.
1,114 reviews9 followers
December 4, 2019
This book is very fitting for this time of the year. It was cool to learn the science behind a snowflake.
Profile Image for Kyrie.
3,080 reviews
June 23, 2023
I grabbed this book to fulfill a photo prompt, and ended up learning a couple things about snowflakes that I hadn't known. Loved the photographs!
22 reviews
December 5, 2015
Title: The Secret Life of A Snowflake
Author: Kenneth Libbrecht
Illustrator: -----
Genre: Photographic Essay
Theme(s): Snow, winter, photography
Opening line/sentence: “Have you ever taken a close look at the falling snow?”
Brief Book Summary: Kenneth Libbrecht is a scientist who studies the molecular dynamics of crystal grow, which is basically the physics of snowflakes. He starts by sharing how he takes the pictures of individual snowflakes. Throughout this book, he shares his photographs of snowflakes along with interesting facts.
Professional Recommendation/Review #1:
Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch, February 2010)
The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art & Science of Snowflakes" is a stunning collection of microscopic images of beautiful, perfect snowflakes. Filled with visual enchantment, "The Secret Life of a Snowflake" traces the life cycle of a snowflake, and gives many visual examples of comparable objects (such as a penny, or a needle) along with a snowflake to show its actual size. Surprisingly, there are many ways to make a snowflake, as well as different ways a snowflake can grow. Dr. Libbrecht confirms from his fascinating observations that indeed, no two six-sided snowflakes are alike, and indeed, all snowflakes are hexagonal. "The Secret Life of a Snowflake" is a glossary of incredible snowflake shapes and facts that will delight and educate juvenile readers ages 9-10 everywhere. The Science Shelf ...., Voyageur Press, $17.00. ages 9-10
(PUBLISHER: Voyageur ;Publishers Group UK [distributor] (St. Paul Minn.:) (Enfield:), PUBLISHED: 2009.)

Professional Recommendation/Review #2:
Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch, February 2010)
The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art & Science of Snowflakes" is a stunning collection of microscopic images of beautiful, perfect snowflakes. Filled with visual enchantment, "The Secret Life of a Snowflake" traces the life cycle of a snowflake, and gives many visual examples of comparable objects (such as a penny, or a needle) along with a snowflake to show its actual size. Surprisingly, there are many ways to make a snowflake, as well as different ways a snowflake can grow. Dr. Libbrecht confirms from his fascinating observations that indeed, no two six-sided snowflakes are alike, and indeed, all snowflakes are hexagonal. "The Secret Life of a Snowflake" is a glossary of incredible snowflake shapes and facts that will delight and educate juvenile readers ages 9-10 everywhere. The Science Shelf ...., Voyageur Press, $17.00. ages 9-10
(PUBLISHER: Voyageur Press (Minneapolis MN:), PUBLISHED: 2009.(Voyageur Press (Minneapolis MN:), PUBLISHED: 2009.))

Response to Two Professional Reviews: Like both of these reviews highlighted, I thought the photographs in this book were amazing. Dr. Libbrecht provides such detail in his photographs of snowflakes, allowing the reader to see snowflakes in a way that they never have before! The science behind the snowflakes that he discusses is a great way for children to learn about the mystery of snow while still keeping them engaged with the constant photographs.
Evaluation of Literary Elements: Once again, the photographs in this book are awesome! I have never seen photos of snowflakes from that angle before and it was really cool to see how complex they are. Even though there is not necessarily a plot, Dr. Libbrecht creates a story-like atmosphere in the story from his photos, life cycle of a snowflake, and the pictures comparing the sizes of snowflakes.
Consideration of Instructional Application: This book would be perfect in a science class when discussing the weather! If the teacher had each student pick a type of weather (rain, snow, thunderstorms, hail, sunshine) to focus on, a student could use this book to find so many details and facts about snowflakes. This book could also be used at dismissal time/down time for example in the beginning of December when it starts to snow so that young children can understand what is going on in the sky.
976 reviews7 followers
March 5, 2017
This is another great book to use when you are looking at snow in your classroom or particularly Snowflake Bentley. In this book I like the variety of snow pictures. There are not only pictures of snowflakes from under the microscope, but also clumps close up and big piles with depth. Like Snowflake Bentley, this author also photographs snow and discusses how he does it. He shares why snowflakes are "white" and "colored" and "clear." He also does a great job looking at the forming of snowflakes and then how people can cut their own the right way.
Profile Image for Laurie.
865 reviews
December 27, 2014
Horn Book (Spring 2011)

Physicist Libbrecht shares his passion for snowflakes, describing their intricate structures, the science of phase changes and crystallization, and the photographic techniques used to capture ice crystals in the shapes of flakes, needles, ferns, and columns. The photographs themselves, which mainly feature close-ups of single flakes (some enhanced with colored light) are stunningly crisp, allowing readers to contemplate every minute detail. Glos., ind.

School Library Journal (May 1, 2010)

Gr 3-6-Extraordinary photographs of individual snowflakes are the true highlight of this informational book. With crisp detail and lit up with colored light, the crystals are mesmerizing in their clarity and brilliance. Libbrecht uses a first-person narration to describe the microphotography process that he uses to create the images and then goes on to outline the life cycle of a snowflake. Some elementary science is included in the text, such as the water cycle and the crystallization process, which explains why no two snowflakes are ever alike. Details about why snowflakes always have six branches and why they vary in size so much add interest and depth, offering readers more than just the basics. A solid addition to any science collection, this book will draw in young enthusiasts, and the beautiful photographs will engage casual browsers. Team it with Jacqueline Briggs Martin's Snowflake Bentley (Houghton, 1998) and Snow Crystals (Dover, 1962), Bentley's own collection of snowflake photographs, for an intriguing lesson on snow.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
50 reviews
July 10, 2012
Libbrecht, Kenneth. (2009)The secret life of a snowflake: an up-close look at the art and science of snowflakes. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press.

category: informational book

In-depth look at snowflakes, at how they are formed, the different kinds. There are incredible photographs of snowflakes taken by the author and even a picture of him with his equipment. I love the 2-page spread showing the relative size of these tiny crystals against a penny, magnified to fill the 2 pages. It explains the science behind the six-sided shape. It shows the "right way to make a paper snowflake" and includes a glossary and index. The only drawback is that the text is at a 5th grade reading level. However, I think it can still be enjoyed by 3rd-5th graders, and younger students will marvel at the pictures.

themes: snowflakes, ice crystals - growth

Classroom uses: science, extension to study of the water cycle
30 reviews
April 1, 2015
This is an absolutely stunning book. The book is written by a scientist/photographer who studies and photographs individual snowflakes. He starts the book by describing how he takes pictures of individual snowflakes and the book has the most beautiful photos. The pages are clean and crisp and all of this makes the book fun and interesting to look at. Not only are the photographs amazing, but this book is filled with great information. The pages have a clear heading and the author explains everything from states of water to why snowflakes are different. Everything is written clearly. I would definitely recommend this book and I think it could be used for a lesson on symmetry, states of matter, or even an art lesson on creating snowflakes.
Profile Image for Martyn.
373 reviews35 followers
February 12, 2011
A stunningly beautiful book. There is little in the way of text, although I learnt a lot from what there was, but this book is aimed at the junior market. I was entranced, though by the photographs. This was certainly the first time I had seen close-ups of snowflakes and I thought they were mesmerizing. They reminded me a lot of fractals, another subject that fascinates me. The photo on page 41 alone is worth hunting this book down for.

...and the best thing was that after reading this book with my daughter we were out walking in falling snow today and lo and behold we could see the shapes of the crystals in the flakes! Very, very rewarding!
Profile Image for Deb.
543 reviews8 followers
February 1, 2012
Stunning photography accompanied by clear text that outlines the science behind snowflakes. I read it out to K. and she read some parts out loud to me. We managed it in one sitting as the presentation is captivating. Nice graphics highlight different points like: relative sizes of cloud droplet and raindrop (Raindrop 100 times bigger than cloud droplet.), how a snowflake forms and the shapes of the crystal structures.
Profile Image for Katie Lawrence.
1,494 reviews28 followers
November 28, 2012
To me this seemed like a much more complicated version of The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino. I thought the images were gorgeous, but some of the explanations may be too complex for the age group they are intended for.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews

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