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Promising beginning

Writers Dan Gewertz, Randy Ross, and Judah Leblang (from left) will come together on stage as the “Roving Raconteurs.’’ Writers Dan Gewertz, Randy Ross, and Judah Leblang (from left) will come together on stage as the “Roving Raconteurs.’’ (Thea Hopkins)
By Jan Gardner
Globe Correspondent / October 31, 2010

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Boston native Lydia Peelle has received a $50,000 literary award that honors accomplishment and promise in emerging writers. She was among 10 recipients of the annual Whiting Writers’ Awards. Peelle, born in Boston and raised in North Andover, earned an MFA at the University of Virginia and lives in Nashville.

The South and rural living has a large presence in her debut work of fiction, “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing” (Harper Perennial), published last year. In the first story, “Mule Killers,” the narrator’s grandfather sells his mules for dog meat and replaces them with tractors. Hunting, a devotion to horses, and love lost and found are central concerns of other stories in the collection.

In its announcement, the Whiting selection committee said it admired Peelle’s “beautiful prose, gorgeous sentences, flawless ear,” adding, “These stories — while working perfectly as short stories — suggest the kind of epic vision usually found in novels.” Speaking of epic vision and novels, Jonathan Franzen is among the past recipients who have gone on to achieve wide acclaim.

A funny time of life
Three men facing middle age and its discontents with a sense of humor are joining forces for “The Roving Raconteurs,” an evening of storytelling. Local writers Dan Gewertz, Judah Leblang, and Randy Ross will take to the stage at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education at 7 p.m. on Friday. Gewertz’s work-in-progress is “A Virgin at Woodstock” and Ross’s is “The Loneliest Planet: A Handbook for the Chronically Single.” Leblang has published a collection of essays, “Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey from Cleveland to Boston and Beyond.” Tickets are $10. Details at www.ccae.org (click on new courses).

For the love of reading
A godsend for adults who want to instill a passion for reading in the next generation has arisen out of Boston’s bookish past. In the new volume, “A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature” (Candlewick), Horn Book Magazine editors Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano suggest a multitude of possibilities. What makes a good picture, dinosaur, sex ed, or science book? These are questions that Horn Book Magazine has been addressing for decades.

The magazine isn’t well-known beyond the world of children’s librarians, teachers, and publishers but its beginnings were very much rooted in the everyday. Founded in 1924 to “blow the horn for fine [children’s] books,” the magazine grew out of reading recommendations made by the owner of Boston’s Bookshop for Boys and Girls. The shop closed in 1936, but the magazine is still going strong.

Sprinkled throughout “A Family of Readers” are essays by authors about the power of pivotal childhood encounters. Jon Scieszka reminisces about his moment of truth when Sister Margaret Ann singled him out in fifth grade. Each of his books, he writes, “is in some way another piece of the answer to the question, ‘What’s so funny, Mr. Scieszka?’ ”

Coming out
■ “Moonlight Mile” by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)

■ “Field of Screams: Haunted Tales from the Baseball Diamond, the Locker Room, and Beyond” by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon (Lyons)

Shelter: Where Harvard Meets the Homeless” by Scott Seider (Continuum)

Pick of the week
Beth Simpson of Cornerstone Books in Salem recommends “To Fetch a Thief: A Chet and Bernie Mystery” by Spencer Quinn (Atria): “Chet the dog is the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction, and he doesn’t disappoint in this third installment in the series. Neither does Quinn, and he keeps the suspense churning as our heroes investigate a missing person — and an elephant.”

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