Henry Holt & Company: The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

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Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods

Christine Byl adeptly intermingles stories of life as a trail dog--"a laborer who works in the woods maintaining, repairing, building, and designing trails"--with reflections on her natural surroundings. The stories are grounded by the tools she learns to use to clear deadfalls, haul away brush, clean ditches and build rock staircases and log walkways. Her 10- to 14-hour days slogging through thick brush or fording thigh deep through icy rivers to reach a designated work site are usually cold, dirty and wet.

Covering 16 years and hundreds of miles of trails in the Glacier and Denali national parks--plus one steadfast relationship--Byl reflects on her tools, her fellow trail dogs, the wildness that surrounded her and the meaning of labor that either makes or breaks a person. She discovers herself amid the sweat, bugs, dirt and dirty jokes, and rejoices in the way her body feels and responds to the demands placed on it. Byl's expressive and descriptive prose opens the doorway to a hard but fulfilling way of life that few people notice or get to experience firsthand. "[The] outdoors is not playground but homeschool, where I am taught to settle in, over and over until being outside isn't about endurance or leisure, but life." --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer