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Independent Bookstore Day

Prints of a “Captain Underpants” illustration by Dav Pilkey will be among the goodies offered at bookstores.
Prints of a “Captain Underpants” illustration by Dav Pilkey will be among the goodies offered at bookstores.

Independent Bookstore Day

Saturday is a great day to visit independent bookshops and comic-book stores. It’s the inaugural nationwide Independent Bookstore Day, modeled on last year’s California Bookstore Day. Stores will be selling limited supplies of bookish goodies, including a Huck Finn literary map, tea towels with literary sayings, an original signed print by graphic novelist Chris Ware, a signed chapbook of original essays by Roxane Gay, and a color broadside with an excerpt from Stephen King’s forthcoming novel “Finders Keepers” (Scribner).

Papercuts in Jamaica Plain will host readings, live music, bookstore bingo, a spelling bee, and more. Trident Booksellers and Cafe will have games and giveaways throughout the day. At Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Boston chefs Jeremy Sewall and Joanne Chang will give demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. respectively. At Harvard Book Store at 7 that evening, literary critic James Wood will present his new book, “The Nearest Thing to Life” (Brandeis University), a blend of memoir and criticism.

Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Comicopia in Boston, as well as Newbury Comics and New England Comics stores in both cities are among the local shops participating in Free Comic Book Day, held nationwide on the first Saturday in May since 2001. Shops will be handing out a variety of comic books, including Sponge Bob, the Simpsons, and an array of super heroes.

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PEN New England announces winners

It’s awards season and PEN New England announced three more honorees at a ceremony on April 19 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Kevin Birmingham, who teaches writing at Harvard University, received the 2015 PEN New England award for nonfiction for “The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses” (Penguin). The judges said his “magisterial story of the world’s most notorious novel — once thought obscene and suppressed by a handful of American and British censors — is a treasure of literary history.”

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Carolyn Chute, author of “Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves” (Grove), which tells the story of a rural survivalist community, is the winner of the 2015 PEN New England award for fiction. The judges praised the novel for looking “unflinchingly at complex intersections of geography, economics, culture, and class.”

Maine poet laureate Wesley McNair received the 2015 PEN New England award for poetry for “The Lost Child” (Godine), a narrative poem inspired by his reuniting with family in the Ozarks after the death of his mother.

Poetry festival

Richard Blanco, Rita Dove, and Jorie Graham are among the featured poets at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival taking place at a variety of venues in Salem Thursday through Sunday. On tap are a master class in reading poetry out loud and an interactive panel that will use Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool” as a muse. Tickets are $15. Details at www.masspoetry.org.

Coming out

 “The Last Bookaneer” by Matthew Pearl (Penguin)

 “Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret’s Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines” by Eric Blehm (Crown)

 “Black Iris” by Leah Raeder (Atria)

Pick of the Week

Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., recommends “The Valley” by John Renehan (Dutton): “This riveting debut novel is set deep in a valley of Afghanistan where no one wants to be, where there is little support and too many lethal secrets among the men. Renehan leads us up this valley, through the poppy fields to a world hidden away from all except those who live there and play by their own rules. Those rules are the same ones that lead to death and the moral deterioration of the men who find themselves there.”

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Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.