Make a harmonica out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands, build a birch bark house, transform an old record into a nifty bowl. In addition to providing directions for a wide variety of activities, “Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun” (Bloomsbury) offers scads of lists (from best car games to best animal movies) and useful advice, such as how to evaluate online research results.
Coauthors Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen have called on a merry band of contributors, including Glenn’s two sons, in putting together a kids’ activities book packed with easy-to-follow instructions, whimsical illustrations, and interviews with leading thinkers on subjects such as feminism and bullying. The aim is to empower kids to be kind to the earth and each other and to understand that you don’t need to spend money to have fun.
Glenn, who grew up in Jamaica Plain, is hosting kid-friendly events at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge and from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at City Feed & Supply in Jamaica Plain. At each event, a few kids will be invited to join a project. The Jamaica Plain appearance will include a performance by a teen rock band.
The inaugural winner of PEN New England’s fiction prize for sports writing is “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Ecco) by Ben Fountain, a novel that Sports Illustrated called a “vivisection of America’s football-industrial complex.”
Kurt Cerulli, a collector of baseball memorabilia and owner of a financial research and consulting business, and his wife, Mary, established the $5,000 annual prize.
According to the judges, Fountain’s novel, which follows eight Iraq war heroes and a Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys football game, illuminates “our notions of heroes and how and why they are celebrated.” Vietnam vet-turned-author Karl Marlantes called the book the “ ‘Catch-22’ of the Iraq war.”
The prize will be awarded at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Boston Public Library.
View from the source
James Parker, who writes for The Atlantic, is editor of The Pilgrim, a literary newsletter that publishes poems, reportage from the streets and shelters of Boston, and, as he wrote in the October issue, “the usual impossible-to-predict medley of vision, protest, field notes and storytelling.” The Pilgrim’s writers are members of Boston’s homeless community; the newsletter is published under the auspices of the Monday Lunch Program at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.
The newsletter presents views on homelessness from the inside out, such as the sense of being invisible to passersby. The Brookline Booksmith will host a celebration of The Pilgrim’s one-year anniversary at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5. Parker will introduce a few of his writers who will read from their work.
■ “The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery” by Agatha Christie and edited by Mathew Prichard (Harper)
■ “Custer” by Larry McMurtry (Simon and Schuster)
■ “The Secrets of Alchemy” by Lawrence M. Principe (University of Chicago)
Pick of the week
Darwin Ellis of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Conn., recommends “The Confidant” by Héléne Grémillon, translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Penguin): “Infertility and infidelity lie at the heart of this very French romance. In 1975, Camille, a young Parisian editor who has just lost her mother, receives an unusual letter of condolence, the first of a weekly series of anonymous reminiscences about wartime France. Family secrets, unsuspected for 30 years, shake Camille to her core in this suspenseful and intricately plotted debut.’’Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.