guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Fall 2009 list

I'm so pleased to welcome back my fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin (@trkravtin on Twitter) for another round of my3books picks!  Among the many publishers that Teresa represents are the legendary imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and she's picked out three of her favorite books from their fall list.

Two books of the American West and a special pop-up book for the holiday season.

    

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
by Timothy Egan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618968411 | $26 | Oct 2009

The incident at the heart of The Big Burn was the largest forest fire in the history of America. “The bare facts were that the blowup covered 2.6 million acres of national forest land, and another 521,184 acres of private or state timber, for a total of just under 3.2 million acres . . . . " (page 221).

The power in the telling of this story resonates in the personal face that author Timothy Egan puts on the lives of the men and women involved. Every aspect of this story is completely absorbing:

  • Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism
  • the fledgling concepts of conservation and the need for a forestry service
  • Guildford Pinchot, Roosevelt’s devoted friend and believer in conservation
  • big business and its influence on government
  • power-hungry politicians
  • ordinary homesteaders

They all play a role in this natural disaster. Areas of Montana, Idaho and Washington were burned. I have hiked through some of these areas in Montana and Idaho, which made this book a particularly meaningful read for me.

Oftentimes while reading, I found myself closing the book in astonishment at the ways in which politics played out in history. I often mistakenly think that only in the times we live have politicians been as driven to wrest power away from the people in achieving their policy goals. It takes a book like this, and many other fine historical reports to show that it is not so.

The Big Burn tells of a time when the people had very little influence in government at all, and there was hardly any place for the people as a concept in politics. We are an ever-evolving nation, and the consequences from this episode in our history shaped forestry policy for years to come.  Imperfect though these new perceptions were, it was a corrective step along the path toward a greater understanding of the demands placed upon our natural resources, the people charged with protecting them, and the role government plays in all of it.

In this meticulously researched book, National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan, “brings a touching humanity to this story of valor and cowardice in the face of a nation catastrophe, playing respectful attention to Roosevelt’s great dream of conservation and of an America ‘for the little man’” (from the PW starred review).

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Twisted Tree
by Kent Meyers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151013890 | $24 | Sept 2009

A young teenager has been stalked and murdered, and in the vastness of the contemporary rural community of Twisted Tree, South Dakota, Kent Meyers deftly weaves an interconnected web of stories of the people whose lives have intersected with young Haley Jo Zimmerman.

I have long been drawn to the literature of a place or of the landscape, and these portraits of the people of Twisted Tree are, in some cases, stark, lonely, searching, mad, and poignant, all the while evoking the character of the desolate nature of the west. Each chapter could stand alone; and in discovering how these lives connected together, Meyers tells a greater tale of how one person’s life resonates in so many others. I was mesmerized.

“This novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed with surprising effect . . . . Meyers’s small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen (from the PW starred review).

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The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780547260693 | $35 | Oct 2009

“What appears to be a fairy tale for children opens like the petals of the Little Prince’s flower into a fantasy that has lessons for all of us.” – School Library Journal

I love this special edition of The Little Prince. All throughout the selling season, I have carried my sample, a French language edition, mind you, into select accounts to share the unique experience of this pop-up book. Unique, in that it contains the complete text of the original story, while the mechanics of the pop-up elements honor the original illustrations by magically bringing them to three-dimensional life.

My buyers slowly turn the pages of the entire book. Each time I was entranced at the experience of standing aside, while the buyer deliberately enjoyed each spread. This pop-up edition of a children’s classic, is in itself, a new and complete experience of the story. There is text, the pop-up, and lots of white space, which allows for an absorbing, relaxing read.

How often are we dazzled by wondrous paper engineering, each spread building up to a magnificent conclusion? In this case, though, I am impressed by the experience of the book. I have found that to be immensely satisfying.

There are legions of faithful fans for The Little Prince. This would be a marvelous addition to their library.

The video for the Little Prince Pop-Up Deluxe edition has been posted to YouTube and can be seen here.

A link to an article where Brooke Shields quotes from 'Little Prince' in the tribute to Michael Jackson can be found here.

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> For more information about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and their fall catalog, you can find them here:
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