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Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology
     

Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology

by Chris Bolgiana (Editor), Bill McKibben (Foreword by), Glenn Novak (Contribution by)
 
Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology is the inspiring story of an American symbol and the struggle to save it from the brink of extinction, the saga of a unique and exceptional tree that supported a way of life, that fed and sheltered our ancestors, and "touched almost every phase of our existence." From Indians and early explorers, to colonists, naturalists,

Overview

Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology is the inspiring story of an American symbol and the struggle to save it from the brink of extinction, the saga of a unique and exceptional tree that supported a way of life, that fed and sheltered our ancestors, and "touched almost every phase of our existence." From Indians and early explorers, to colonists, naturalists, loggers, industrialists, and beyond, from presidents, poets, and artists, including Jefferson, Lincoln, Carter, Thoreau, Frost, Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and many more, the story of our once mighty, towering native chestnut tree is a lesson for our times. It is ultimately a story of how people, working together, can harness the power of community, scientific knowledge, and our growing awareness of the workings of nature to make a difference.

Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology tells, in images and words, the story of the once mighty monarch of the eastern forests and the scientists who engaged in the struggle against "one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of forest biology"-perhaps the deadliest plant blight ever encountered. It is the story of the dedicated few who refused who give up: the fearless plant explorer who tracked down the blight in war-torn China, the plant pathologists and geneticists who labored long and valiantly to understand the blight and find a way to thwart it. It is also a story of hope, of small but vital triumphs, as the secrets of the American chestnut and its deadly nemesis are gradually revealed.

• Chestnut scenes from artists such as Winslow Homer, Seneca Ernie Smith, Andrew Wyeth, Charles Burchfield, and a generous selection of seldom-seen photographs ofAmerican chestnut throughout its history.
• "Chestnuts in my Life" by Jimmy Carter.
• Poems by Wendell Berry and Robert Frost.
• Chestnut folklore and anecdotes, including reminiscences from southern Appalachia to New England, along with historical newspaper chronicles of the tree before, during, and after the blight.
• Chestnut reflections by plant geneticist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, father of the "Green Revolution."
• Colorful accounts of railroads and locomotives that logged mammoth chestnut trees in Appalachia, by Les Line, longtime editor of Audubon magazine.
• Chestnut recollections and inspirations from Bill Owens, Dolly Parton's uncle, a Tennessee mountain man, musician, and champion of the tree.
• Excerpts from best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, about a curmudgeonly chestnut breeder and his cantankerous rural Virginia neighbor.

FEATURES:

• A fine account of the ecological battle to bring the mighty chestnut back from the brink of extinction with the prospect of victory on the horizon.
• A beautiful coffee table worthy book in full color that rewards both browsers and in depth readers like a fine interpretive exhibit.
• A comprehensive chestnut encyclopedia: observations by early explorers; writings and memories from the 19th and early 20th centuries; and reports on the most recent scientific research.
• A picture of the multipurpose chestnut that once dominated the US Eastern Forest with wood for timber, nuts as food for humans and wild life, and a rural cash crop - and the extent of its loss when all but an isolated few of the 2 billion trees were decimated by blight.

Copublished with The American Chestnut Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the re-establishment of the American chestnut tree to its natural range.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

The American chestnut tree was once king of the forest. Its range stretched nearly the length of the eastern seaboard, from Maine to Georgia, and as far west as the Ohio Valley. Central to human economies, it also played a key role in the hardwood ecosystem. And then, in the late 1800s, an imported Asian fungus quickly killed a staggering 99.9 percent of the species; by 1950, only 50 to 100 trees remained of the estimated original four billion. Restoration attempts continue. Curiously, outside of the scientific literature, this sad, powerful story of death and rebirth has rarely been told, but two new titles fill the gap wonderfully. Science journalist Freinkel's compact, entertaining history of the tree's demise and the many attempts to bring it back reads smoothly, like a well-written novel: the settings, whether deep in the heart of 1920s Appalachia or in a modern, upstate New York gene-splicing lab, are richly drawn; the "characters," be they human, sylvan, or fungal, will entice many readers, perhaps even those with only a perfunctory interest in trees. A delightful lack of squeamishness distinguishes Freinkel's account. We read, for example, of one chestnut breeder's complaint that his persnickety experimental subjects "didn't give a shit that I was trying to help them." Descriptive detail is such that one sometimes wonders how it was obtained: at a 1912 high-level meeting to discuss blight containment strategies, the air, we are told, "was thick with a sense of urgency," and one of the participants "looked weary as he took his place." This may be the stuff of fiction, but it does not in any way detract from a thoroughly absorbing book.

In Mighty Giants, a celebratorypublication of the 25th anniversary of the American Chestnut Foundation, editor Bolgiano gathers photographs, essays, poems, and personal recollections into a fascinating cornucopia of all things chestnut. This includes a certain vernacular flair, as in a local's description of old trees: "grea-a-at big, and they'd sprangle out, have a big clustery top to'em." Images of the big trees evoke an aching sense of what's lost, while stories of those trying to save them are cause for hope and admiration. Although each title can stand on its own, they work best in tandem. Both are highly recommended, even for those libraries outside the chestnut belt.
—Robert Eagan

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781884592485
Publisher:
Images From The Past, Incorporated
Publication date:
12/31/2007
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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