A former student of mine, now editor-in-chief of a small-town weekly newspaper, confessed on Facebook that she got lost in some bedtime reading last night and was up past 1:30. Coincidence: I was not only guilty of the same thing at the same time, but with every chapter of the book I was reading, I had thought about sending her a copy.
Actually, in this case “a copy” is just a web link or two. The book — about an even younger woman editor — is apparently out of copyright and available for free streaming or downloading in both Project Gutenberg e-book and LibriVox audio book formats.
In “Helen in the Editor’s Chair,” a Nancy Drew style teen novel, two high school students have to run the town weekly when their dad the editor is taken ill and sent to Arizona because of “lung trouble.” It’s truly amazing what they accomplish without TV or the Internet! (I don’t think radio even gets mentioned.) The roles of both the country newspaper and the country doctor — the newspaper family’s next-door neighbor — will definitely have you wishing for simpler times.
From selling ads and setting type to covering stories big and small, and getting ideas for new features from helpful readers, the kids have a “we can do it!” energy that’s inspiring. I couldn’t help imagining the two teenagers being played by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and kept expecting them to burst into song on deadline. The setting is Midwestern, and, yes, there is a tornado — but Helen keeps her feet on the ground. Besides, the small town with its train station, farms and lake is close enough to Oz for me.
I was up late with the audiobook, but Project Gutenberg has text versions, if you find audiobook pacing is too slow. (The reader is o.k., but so measured that I wonder if his target audience is ESL students.)