guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Merrell Publishers

Please give a hearty welcome back to my friend and fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, who sends word from her Top Secret Rep Headquarters that one of the publishers she represents is putting out smart, handsome paperback editions of some of their hardcover illustrated books.

Three picks from Merrell Publishers: new, affordable, paperback editions.

Merrell Publishers, a British illustrated book publisher, has done a smart bit of publishing in this economically challenged retail environment. This fall, Merrell is publishing three of its hardcover books in more compact, affordable, paperback editions. There is, again, a compelling reason to share these lovely books with new readers.

American Ruins
by Arthur Drooker
with a foreword by Douglas Brinkley and an essay by Christopher Woodward
Merrell Publishers | 9781858944975 | $24.95 | Sept 2009

It is one of my fascinations with the world of publishing to see a confluence of interests and ideas emerge in works that overlap and compliment each other. American Ruins is a unique compilation of historic ruins thoughout the US, photographed using a specially adapted digital camera in infrared format, revealing a lost world of haunted beauty and ethereal landscapes. In the foreword, historian Douglas Brinkley (author of the recently published Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Harper, July 2009) notes that it was thanks to Teddy Roosevelt in creating The Antiquities Act of 1906, that led to the preservation of sites such as these depicted in the book. In a previous blog post on my3books, I wrote about another Teddy Roosevelt book by Timothy Egan, The Big Burn.  And, of course, there is the recent PBS National Parks series by Ken Burns that eloquently brought together the historical impetus for setting aside those places of unique American nature and character.

  Divided into the four regions of the country, American Ruins is a tour through some of the remaining architecture, history, and geography of these preserved places. Art historian Christopher Woodward provides an essay speaking to what distinguishes America from Europe in our lack of evidence of a long past, establishing context within which to contemplate the sites.

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia; Dungeness, the Carnegie family home on Cumberland Island, Georgia; the Anasazi Ruins in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona; Jack London’s Wolf House in Glen Ellen, California are among the many locations in the book. As Drooker explains, “I was drawn to these sites to forge a spiritual connection with those who came before us, to capture the visual poetry of what they left behind. As a series, these images present a rare overview of some overlooked landmarks and allow us, as Americans, to see where we came from, measure how far we’ve come and gain a vision of where we might be headed.”  For anyone interested in photography, history, America or archeology. (Originally published in hardcover at $45.)

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Shelter Dogs
by Traer Scott
Merrell Publishers |
9781858944982 | $12.95 | Sept 2009

Our family doesn’t have a dog. That hasn’t stopped us from becoming devoted fans of The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. What we admire about Cesar Millan is his dedication to the cause of “rescuing” dogs, sometimes from shelters or unhappy living environments, and training humans to better understand themselves and the dogs they choose as companions. Many dogs featured on his show are rescued animals, and the people who make it their mission to save these dogs from an inevitable fate.

Shelter Dogs was originally published in hardcover before we were glued to the TV every Friday night. With the new paperback edition of Shelter Dogs, it’s time again to celebrate the intensely striking portraits of shelter dogs in Traer Scott’s beautiful book. Born out of a project to train and socialize abandoned shelter animals for greater rates of adoption and retention, Scott began photographing the dogs for adoption records and internet sites. This progressed into what became the impetus for the book.

  The greatest impact this collection of portraits had upon me originally was the immensely moving character captured by Scott’s sensitive portraiture. As she states in the introduction, “As soon as a camera is pointed at these dogs, they just fix their gaze on you and pour out volumes. They seem to be telling a story that is much longer and more epic than the one their short lives can feasibly encompass.”

There is Bonnie, a pit bull Hurricane Katrina survivor, who was fortunate to be rescued and rehabilitated. Celeste, a frenetic Husky, that was still a mere five seconds for her portrait. Emma, Rosie, Hercules, Ox, Stubbs are all part of this collection of 50 portraits in all.

Published to coincide with the annual ASPCA’s ‘Adopt-a-Shelter Dog’ Month, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the ASPCA by Merrell. It is beautiful photography in the service of an honorable cause. Perhaps our family will stop by a local shelter soon.

“Scott's haunting portrait album bares the souls of these unclaimed but unassailably dignified animals.”  People

“Traer Scott's Shelter Dogs (Merrell) is a canine facebook with more personalities than Chaplin.”  Vogue

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The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art
by Tamsin Pickeral
Merrell Publishers |
9781858944937 | $24.95 | Oct 2009

There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.

~ Early twentieth-century proverb.

From the earliest rock painting in the caves of Lascaux, an agate cylinder seal from sixth century BC Persia, carpets, sculptures, mosaics, Egyptian painted wood, Greek frescos, Chinese terracotta tomb relics, Japanese woodblocks — all that and more are included in this rich illustrated history of the horse. Details about the horse as a symbol of power, an element of myth and legend, an integral part of pioneer and Native American life in the New World are examined, as well as how the nature of the relationship between horse and man has evolved over the last hundred years.

 

Originally published as an oversized hardcover coffee table book at $49.95, this new paperback edition is an incredible value. It is exactly the same book in a slightly reduced size, and half the price, which is reason enough for horse lovers everywhere to have a copy of their own.

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Merrell has many wonderful books in their catalog. I will treat you to three additional favorites for women. Women Who Read are Dangerous; Women Who Writeand In Praise of the Needlewoman.

Enlightenment in the Copyright Page, Or, Three Author/Illustrator Treats From Kids Can Press, Fall 2009

Contributing Editor Angela Sherrill (of incredible Chicago bookstore 57th Street Books) returns with a look at three charming books in the Fall 2009 catalog from Kids Can Press.  Angela's last post on my3books was a look at the Pink Cheeks of David Roberts.

I love the details in a copyright page.  Even when I have no idea what some of them mean.  If you really want the details and history of copyrights, rest assured that the U.S. Copyright Office has a horridly boring website where you can fall asleep while browsing.

What initially caught my attention on the copyright pages of these three Kids Can books were the illustration methods.  I'll spare you the wonder of the font names and let you explore those on your own time.  Here, we're looking at three examples of author/illustrators that do both and do it well.  They are all on the Fall 2009 list from Kids Can Press and available now.

    

Have I Got A Book For You!
by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press | 9781554532896 | $16.95 | Aug 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in the book was rendered in charcoal pencil and assembled digitally.”

If you don’t love Melanie Watt already, you have missed out on years of enjoyment, so don’t wait another day to join in the fun.  Booksellers, librarians and families all over the continent have been laughing at and with Scaredy Squirrel.  His fearful antics and preparedness tactics are endlessly funny. 

Melanie’s newest character is no Scaredy Squirrel, but the book is a loony treat all its own.  Meet Mr. Al Foxword as he tries to sell you a book. This book, in fact.  Al's suits and desperate smile leave much to be desired.  If nothing else, Al Foxword is enthusiastic. You should be, too, when you read this book. I insist you give this one the proper treatment by reading it aloud in your best enthusiastic-infomercial or used-car-salesmen voice. Whatever you do, don’t skip to the end.  Read it through properly and enjoy this flim-flam fox. He's got a few tricks up his polyester sleeves.  

By the way, Melanie knows this is one ridiculously silly book.  Check that copyright page again for her dedication.

*** 

Big Bear Hug
by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press | 9781554534647 | $16.95 | Sept 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in this book was rendered in Photoshop.”

The illustrations make this book look like a cartoon, but the message is bit more serious than your typical bear-centric cartoon. First of all, this bear is a real sweetheart.  He hugs (read loves) everything in the forest.  But even the patience of this furry and lovable creature is tested when an overweight and empty-headed woodcutter comes into the picture. What results is a message of tolerance that trumps the “green” message we've come to expect.

I wouldn't have suspected myself to be a fan of a “green”, Photoshop-ed picture book, but this one surpassed all my expectations.  Thanks to that handy copyright page, I must confront my prejudice against illustrations rendered without the artistic tools of the previous millennium and allow that for some artists “the medium is transcended by a powerful sense of vision.

And if we check that copyright page again for Oldland's dedication, we'll see that he did indeed have a vision — it came from his mother.

*** 

Binky the Space Cat
by Ashley Spires
$7.95, 9781554533091, 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in the book was rendered in ink, watercolor and cat fur.”

The world of children's picture books is not lacking in space traveling animals.  Whether they reference historical space trips such as Laika and Ham, or purely imaginative one such as Green Wilma or David Carter's bugs

What makes Binky so wonderful in the world of well-traveled fictional characters?  Maybe it's that unique mixture of ink, watercolor and cat fur? I think it's the wacky shape of his head and the deft hand of talented illustrator.  But who am I?  I can't write OR draw!

The Final Word:  If it's a wonderful little press like Kids Can, go ahead and check the copyright page every once in awhile.  You might find enlightenment there.

-- Angela K Sherrill
57th Street Books

> For more enlightenment on Kids Can Press, you can learn more here: web site ~ catalog downloads

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).

***

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).

***

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:
Web site ~ catalog downloads ~ @hmhbooks on Twitter ~ Facebook 

my3books link: Next Chapter Bookshop buyer Dave Mallmann

In case you haven't already noticed, there's a strong meeting of the minds between the my3books gang and the Next Chapter Bookshop crew.  I've previously posted a set of my3books picks from bookseller Taylor Rick, and we've mutually cross-linked to each other's blogs in the past.  But now, we're taking this cooperation to the next level!

Dave Mallmann, bookseller and buyer extraordinaire at Next Chapter, posted this set of picks to their own blog last week.  Instead of posting everything here that Dave wrote there about his favorite up-and-coming literary novelists, I'd rather send you over to the Next Chapter blog to read it.  

BUT if you read on, you will see all three authors that Dave picked, and I'll also include links to some other indie booksellers who've been raving about those authors.  These are some strong picks - they're all on my to-be-read list already!

   

from Next Chapter's Reading Copy: Newer Writers Should Join Literary Elite

This fall, we’re seeing a slew of North America’s most popular literary fiction writers releasing major new books. It’s astounding when you look at the list of names: John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, E.L. Doctorow, Richard Russo, Pete Dexter… the list goes on and on. But there are also books coming out by authors who have paid their dues and deserve to be card-carrying members of this esteemed club. In fact, the three books I’m featuring here are better than many of the new books by the heavy-hitters (I won’t name names) listed above. This isn’t about which legends are losing their edge, this is about a new generation who deserves to be added to the list of heavy-weights… Here are my 3 nominees to be added to the who’s who of North American Fiction Writers.

Await Your Reply
by Dan Chaon
Ballantine Books | 9780345476029 | $25 | Aug 2009

Dan Chaon has outdone himself with Await Your Reply. Much like Michael Chabon, Mr. Chaon mixes literary artistry with genre conventions. The result? A taut, creepy, page-turning thriller that deserves to be on every year-end best-of and award-nominee list out there.

Blame
by Michelle Huneven 
Farrar Straus Giroux | 9780374114305 | $25 | Sept 2009

The point here is this: Michelle Huneven has her finger on the pulse of the Human Condition (remember that phase from Shakespeare 101?). Her characters and their interactions are as real as any in contemporary fiction. This is a heartbreaking and heartwarming novel by a rising star who still believes that the best fiction revolves around real people struggling with real life. Simply an amazing read.

Everything Matters
by Ron Currie Jr.
Viking Books | 9780670020928 | $25.95 | June 2009

A good writer of experimental fiction understands how important it is to surprise the reader with literary pratfalls and trapdoors. A good writer of experimental fiction will wow you with their imagination; they will shock you with their inventiveness. They will play the literary shell game with you and you won’t be able to find the ball when all is said and done. 

That's good experimental fiction, not great. The problem is, nine times out of ten, they will have no effect on your emotions.

Then there are the great writers of experimental fiction. Not only can they accomplish the wizardry listed above, but they can also move you to tears. They can evoke emotions in their readers that somehow belie the playfulness of their prose. Ron Currie, Jr.’s Everything Matters! is, by my estimation, a truly great piece of experimental fiction.

***

> More on Await Your Reply from the Northshire Bookstore's blog, by their adult buyer, Stan Hynds: "With careful deliberation he builds each story, chapter by chapter–a hint here and piece of information there–until he reveals the book’s chilling secrets.  I highly recommend this haunting, brilliant novel."

> More on Blame from the blog of Boswell Book Company's owner, Daniel Goldin (hint: he really loves it): " it’s clear that Huneven writes about addiction and recovery like few others. Above all, Blame is suffused with humor and grace, making this the kind of book I didn’t want to let go."

> More on Everything Matters! from Pudd'nhead Books' owner Nikki Furrer in her email announcement about the book: "The best book you'll read this year, we promise. ... This book is the reason I'm a voracious reader...I am constantly looking for stories that are this beautiful and haunting and extraordinary. I hope you feel the same way about that I do. But if you don't, if you feel like the book isn't emotionally connecting with you, if it bores you, if you don't like the writing or the characters - bring it back for a full refund."

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Candlewick Press

Is it simplest to just say that Teresa Rolfe Kravtin is a kindred spirit? She's a fellow independent sales rep - Southern Territory Associates, the rep group of which she is a member, covers the South. We are both interested in the social networking aspects of publishing - you can find her here on Twitter. And most fun for me is that we frequently agree about our favorite books from the publishers that we both represent.

We seem to spend a lot of time talking about Candlewick Press's books, probably because their list is such a goldmine of discovery. One of the very first posts that I put up on my3books was about my picks from Candlewick's fall list, and what I found most interesting is that Teresa's picks and mine only overlap by one book.

The Princess' Blankets
by Carol Ann Duffy; illustrated by Catherine Hyde
Candlewick Press | 9780763645472 | $18.99 | Nov 2009

There are many interesting aspects to this lovely picture book from the Templar imprint of Candlewick Press, which is why I love talking about this book to my booksellers. A few words about Templar. Templar is a UK publisher that is most known for their highly successful ‘Ology series publishing with Candlewick in the US. Candlewick has formalized this co-publishing arrangement and this fall season has the second selection of general picture books from Templar that are either highly interactive or creatively imaginative.

The Princess’ Blankets is an over-sized, gorgeously illustrated fairy tale. Carol Ann Duffy, the new poet laureate of Britain, and described by The Guardian as “the most popular living poet in Britain” weaves a traditional fairy with contemporary elements. With paintings by first-time picture book illustrator Catherine Hyde, the illustrations are laced with reflective elements on certain spreads, uses of color and texture that fill each page with elements of the natural world that bring this tale to life. A king’s daughter is stricken with cold, so severe that the king issues an edict. Anyone who can heal the princess of her coldness will receive up to half of his kingdom. Many try and fail, and in the process a subtle warning about robbing the earth of its natural resources is in embedded in the story.

Most meaningful to me is that a musician saves the princess. Being a musician for a great portion of my life, with a Music Degree to boot, I am and will always be a flute player deep inside. Music is an innate aspect to all of my life, and to my delight and surprise it is a flute player who saves the princess in this fairy tale! When has THAT ever happened?

“The musician had a kind and good heart, and he made up his mind to go to the palace himself to see if he could help." He plays his flute and the princess begins to warm and stir. The flute player tenderly reaches out to the princess and relieves her of her terrible affliction. I LOVE this! A story I can get behind!! I must say that, oftentimes, fairy tales do not have the magical quality necessary to suspend disbelief and capture the reader’s imagination successfully. The Princess’s Blankets is a wonderful exception and I urge you to treat yourself to an exceptional reading experience.

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Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature
by David Ellwand
Candlewick Press | 9780763620950 | $19.99 | Nov 2009

A follow-up to Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand, comes Fairie-Ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature from photographer David Ellwand. This is a fantasy style sourcebook of natural designs that takes my breath away. Big beautiful photographs of dandelions, frogs, fairie chairs, birds nests, insects and flowers, that show the intricate colors and palettes of colors that occur in nature.

It is a fantasy sourcebook for sure, because is any of the practical? Is it meant to be? Matters not one whit to me - it is an immersion in the beauty and magic of the natural world, with a dose of fairie dust to boot. The back cover of the sales blad says it all, “this is an eco-designer’s dream—the ultimate exploration of truly organic materials”.

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Eli the Good
by Silas House
Candlewick Press | 9780763643416 | $16.99 | Sept 2009

Eli the Good is a young adult novel from Kentucky author Silas House whose previous adult novels have been published by Algonquin Books. (Follow the link to download a PDF of a letter from Silas.) A favorite among many of my booksellers, this book was my introduction to Silas House’s writing. The novel is set during the bicentennial summer of 1976, the year I happened to graduate from high school. I loved the references to the time interspersed though out the story, which he uses to set the stage of a family breaking apart and coming back together during this pivotal moment in their lives.

Ten-year-old Eli is trying to make sense of all of the members of his family, but most notably, his father, who is struggling with episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Vietnam. Did we even call it post-traumatic stress disorder then?

The writing is lyrical, real, tender and particularly enchanting. Never before have I found someone to detail the sensibilities of a child in a family that so closely reminded me of many scenes from my own childhood. I kept having flashbacks to times in my past where I tried to grapple with myself and my family in the quiet moments of life. Whether it was from the momentous summer of 1976, when of course I wasn’t ten, or the times I allowed myself to remember sitting under the huge trees of the childhood of my younger years, starring up into the branches and thinking about my family and the world we lived in and how I fit in it.

In Eli the Good, themes of nature and war, family and love, loneliness and longing, fill the pages with a quiet wonder. Treat yourself to this book. It will appeal to adults as well as to younger readers. In other words, to anybody and everybody

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More Candlewick Press links:

» Want a downloadable PDF of the Fall 2009 Candlewick Press catalog? You got it.
» Want to be blown away by the sheer wonder of Candlewick’s backlist? The catalog elves at Candlewick put together their first epic, comprehensive backlist catalog in years.