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If only a picture were actually worth a thousand words, you'd be able to look at the exquisite cover above and run right out and buy this beautiful book, rather than working your way through the thickets of verbiage that follow. At any rate, the author, S. Peter Lewis, and several, if not all, of the folks who helped him build his remarkable treehouse are outdoorsmen and fishermen, such that a book about a building project not infrequently references John Gierach and Nick Lyons. This is fitting because, besides being a bucolic sort of tale anyway, the book resembles nothing so much as a high quality fishing book, complete with watercolors. The attention to detail and design, the way the illustrations and photographs mesh with the text and the entire layout are reminiscent of the work of the great illustrator Barry Moser or of the young angling artist, James Prosek, whose art I like much better than his stories, but who manages to integrate them well. If you look back up at the picture above, you'll see most everything that makes this book so wonderful. First, there's the romance of the task itself, building a two story office around a tree--a feat they accomplished without driving metal into the trunk. Second, there's the characteristically whimsical touch of wrapping a stairwell around another nearby tree. Just as characteristic, as you study the structure and the entryway you'll start saying to yourself, "How'd they do that?" in the book the question becomes, "Okay, we had the bright idea, now how do we do it?" Too, you see the roots plunging deep into the soil and the branches reaching skyward. This is a story that's very much anchored in a very special place, Northern New England -- Maine in this case -- where you just aren't terribly surprised to hear a neighbor has embarked on such a foolhardy effort and sort of hope he needs help so you can satisfy your curiosity about how he's doing as well as have a hand in completing the thing. Last, there's the quality of the art work itself, both detailed enough to draw you into the process and lovely enough to awe you. Yes, I suspect you can figure out whether you'll like this book or not just by how you react to that picture. And, if you've a soul, I'm not sure how you can help but react quite favorably.
Though we're way behind on reviews I couldn't help reading the book as soon as I opened it. The art, mostly by T.B.R. Walsh, draws you in so much you feel like you're part of the project. The story, as told by Mr. Lewis, is as much about family and friends and neighbors working together and having joyous adventures and misadventures as it is about the nuts and bolts -- actually, mortise and tenons -- of the construction work. The treehouse was very much a collaborative effort and the book is so accessible that the reader becomes almost a collaborator. It's the nature of our winters up here and of the type of building they were doing that most of the work took place in the good weather months, and Mr. Lewis would find himself in the colder times leafing through his notebooks and examining plans daydreaming about the treehouse. I can hardly wait to pick the book up again on some frigid February day and enjoy the whole experience over again. Obviously we recommend this one most heartily, but in particular it seems like it would be a perfect gift book, especially for someone who likes tinkering around their house or anyone who appreciates beautiful books.
-AUDIO: A Magical Tree House in Maine (Susan Sharon, July 29, 2005, NHPR)
-REVIEW: of Treehouse Chronicles (Dana Blozis, Foreword Reviews)
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