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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Soloman's Tree

Reviewed: April 25, 2003
By: Written by Andrea Spaulding, Illustrated by Janet Wilson, mask and Tsimpshian designs by Victor Reece
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
32 Pages, $19.95

Thereís a lot of collaboration in this delightful book, which was published last summer while the Spaldings, Andrea and David, were joint writers in residence at Berton House.

The story is based on a notion that will be familiar to anyone who has tried to memorialize a favorite pet or part of a property that has to be changed for some reason. In Solomonís case the favourite thing is a big, old maple tree. He loves it for climbing, for hiding, for the many things that live and grow in its branches.

When it is destroyed by a storm, he is devastated, but his uncle promises him a way to capture its essence for a keepsake. After most of the tree has been harvested for firewood, Solomon and his uncle take a section of the trunk that was not rotted and begin to make a mask, following the traditions of the Tsimpshian carvers. As they work, they talk about the tree and incorporate things from Solomonís experience into the final work.

The result is a lovely mask which Solomon wears as part of a ceremony to commemorate his tree. On that same day a seed from the tree begins to germinate on the forest floor, beginning a new revolution in the circle of life.

One of the neat things about this book is the fact that the mask in the story exists. Andrea Spalding formed a collaboration with Victor Reece (they both live on Pender Island) to gather the information needed for the book. Who, for instance, would have expected that a chainsaw and a microwave oven would be among the tools used to produce a delicate piece of traditional Tsimpshian art?

Reece also provided panel designs which were worked into the art by Janet Wilson. Besides that, the model for Solomon is Victorís son of the same name. The end result is a book which is both touching and informative.

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