Anne Gillespie Lewis spied the crooked evergreen tree through the window of the Brooklyn Center community pool.
She felt sorry for that crooked tree.
“I know what it’s like to be crooked,” said Gillespie Lewis, who was diagnosed with scoliosis — a curvature of the spine — as a young girl. “It’s a pretty tree even though it’s crooked. It has a lovely color.”
The Minneapolis author couldn’t shake that tree from her mind. Her eyes were drawn to it every time she attended her water aerobics class at the community center. So she decided to write a children’s book about the beautiful but imperfect evergreen.
“The story just fell into place, “ Gillespie Lewis said.
The result is “A Perfect Tree for Christmas,” published by independent Minnesota-based Nodin Press. Friend and Swedish artist Carine Stahlberg illustrated. The paperback, available on Amazon.com and at local bookstores, came out on Gillespie Lewis’ 69th birthday, Oct. 20.
It’s actually the story of two imperfect Christmas trees — one is a bit crooked and one has two tops — waiting for families to choose them.
“There are people who like a perfect tree and there are people who like trees that need a little love,” Gillespie Lewis said.
The trees are passed over several times and the suspense mounts. But the book has a heartfelt message for readers: “You don’t have to be perfect to be loved,” Gillespie Lewis said.
This is the seventh book by the author/editor and former sportswriter, who knows a bit about setbacks and perseverance. Just like her tree protagonists, those things are part of her story too. She lost part of her hearing after contracting measles as a child. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 12.
She loved to write, and she attended the University of Minnesota for journalism. She covered sports in the 1960s when women reporters were a novelty. She recalls writing for the Minnesota Daily, the U’s newspaper.
“The first sports editor wouldn’t let me in the room. I had to sit outside,” she recalled.
She went on to be a sports reporter at the Minneapolis Star from 1967 to 1971. She recalls interviewing for the job. No one asked her if she knew anything about sports, Gillespie Lewis said.
“The sports editor said, ‘I’ve been thinking about adding a woman. He said it like you’d say, ‘Let’s get a little dog.’ ”
She eventually left daily journalism to live abroad, attend graduate school, have a family, and write and edit books. She has authored a Minnesota guidebook, a book about Swedes settling in Minnesota, a cookbook and a children’s craft book.
Lewis will have several book signings in coming days:
• 1-3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, at Ingebretsen’s, 1601 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis;
• 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Ingebretsen’s, 12092 Hwy. 35 in Stockholm, Wis.;
• 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, at Barnes & Noble, 710 County Hwy. 10 NE in Blaine;
• Noon-2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Hansen Tree Farm in Anoka County.