Check It Out: Book explores creative, dazzling Lego projects

By Jan Johnston, Columbian book reviewer

Published:

 
photoJan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org.
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Review

“Extreme Bricks: Spectacular, Record-Breaking, and Astounding Lego Projects from Around the World”

By Sarah Herman; Skyhorse Publishing, 242 pages

I have a confession to make: I didn't play with Lego bricks when I was a child. I was a Tinkertoy kid through and through. Instead of plastic bricks littering the floor, spools, sticks and flags decorated our living room carpet. Usually my creations had a flair for the abstract, but during the times when my older brother was home from college, the structures secured the cool factor with his complicated designs and moving parts. No wonder my brother became an engineer!

But back to Lego. Unlike Tinkertoy, Lego continues to not only remain popular, it manages to recruit new devotees with each passing decade. Museums, contests, and even the movies (have you seen the box office hit "The Lego Movie" yet?) keep the Lego momentum going, certainly pleasing Lego enthusiasts while, perhaps, puzzling those of us who remember the little bricks as nothing more than a plastic child's toy.

If you fall into this second group, I won't predict that this week's book will convert you into a Lego-maniac, but it just might generate a little bit more respect for the simple, yet oh-so-complex construction toy.

Sarah Herman, the author of another Lego title "A Million Little Bricks: The Unofficial Illustrated History of the Lego Phenomenon" (also available at the library, by the way), presents a collection of truly awesome Lego models, mind-boggling in their scope, complexity and creativity.

While a few of the models represent subjects well known to most children -- Harry Potter's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, for example — there is nothing childish about any of the projects presented in this book.

In fact, you'll learn that AFOLs (adult fans of Lego) are the reason for much of Lego's current popularity.

Still skeptical? Take a look at pages 42-47. There you'll find a model of the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier, the USS Intrepid. At 22 feet long, and 600 pounds (yes, 600 pounds), builder Ed Diment created his incredibly detailed model using 250,000 Lego bricks.

What inspired such an ambitious undertaking?

"I have always been interested in naval vessels," he says on page 42, and after building models of a Royal Navy battlecruiser and a Royal Navy Destroyer, he says that "the only option left was to go bigger, which meant an aircraft carrier." Lego-tastic, Ed!

From famous landmarks (the Seattle Space Needle) to fictional locations (a comic book superhero's lair, the Batcave), from prehistoric creatures (a 6-foot high, 14-foot-long stegosaurus) to life-size musical instruments (my favorite is a completely playable harpsichord), building stuff with Lego pieces rises to a whole new level in this tribute to a childhood icon.

A word of caution, though: Reading about extreme Lego projects just might hit you like a ton of bricks.