You can't say it's not compelling reading:
"The snow fort colossus, four-and-one-half feet tall was constructed and destructed in January," begins one article.
"'Shifting,' the next generation of sledding, begins with stairs."
"If you want to stay fit and still watch TV, there may be hope!"
"Imagine space as a flat surface. Big objects, like the sun sink onto it and make a dip: This would be gravity."
John Lotus, a budding newsie, is only nine years old (he'll be 10 later this month), but he shows undeniable flair with his leads. At the rate he's going, the reporter, sales rep, publisher, and circulation director of the Kenilworth Kids Express ("The Newspaper for Kids by Kids and about Kids") should be quite a force by the time he hits the OPRF Trapeze (or comparable private school paper).
At any rate, he's getting a head start on his competition. And the 1150 block of South Kenilworth is getting plenty of pithy, to-the-point updates on neighbors. Like "Las Vegas or Bust!!" for instance:
"The Sullivan Clan were interviewed about their upcoming trip to Las Vegas for Spring break.
"'We'll only be gone a few days,' says Dawn.
"'Viva Las Vegas!' says Pat."
Admirable economy, you must admit. Of course, it did have to be cut?#34;by Jean, John's editor, layout designer and mom. "He originally had the dates they were going to be gone," she said. "I didn't think that was such a good idea."
Jean, a former reporter herself for a Gannett paper in Lafayette, Ind., uses a newsletter template in Microsoft Works to format the final copy but draws the line at writing the articles. John has to do that himself?#34;although he's been trying to recruit friends and his sister to help, offering the grand sum of 20 cents per article, but no luck yet. The sister, in fact, confided to Jean that she thinks the paper is "just a money-making scheme."
John does charge a quarter a copy, which is why he's out after school and on weekends interviewing as many people as possible because he figures they'll buy the paper if they're in it. He's made about three bucks so far, which he keeps in a Lego jar.
And he tries to give his readers a wide range of features, including book reviews and the Ask Uncle Frank Advice Column:
Dear Uncle Frank: My sister has taken to making faces at me for reasons unknown. What should I do?
Dear Highly Annoyed: The first thing to do is to ask politely for her to stop. If this fails, try the same thing two more times and then alert the authorities.
Heck, he's even got a "Funnies!" page.
The issue we have been quoting from is number two. The first edition came out about a year ago. The first issue #2 was eaten by some sort of computer virus, so lost forever are such blockbuster sagas as "Loch Ness monster sighted" (on the 1150 block of Kenilworth?) and "Local baby counts to 10."
He also lost a chance to preview the block's talent show, which included John playing the piano and one of the dads "assembling a computer in five minutes." Sounds like a pretty creative block.
John has always enjoyed writing, Jean says. He kept a dream log for a while, and when she saw his list of goals at the beginning of third grade (he's now in fourth at St. Luke School in River Forest), it included "finishing that book I've been meaning to write."
His aspirations for the future, however, vary. In addition to writer, Jean says, he also lists restaurant worker and lobsterman ("He enjoys sea creatures. I think he wants to be a naturalist"). But as of Saturday afternoon, John himself listed "author, archaeologist, paleontologist, marine biologist, and something else I forget."
But for an author, he's pretty modest. The bylines are all pseudonyms, consisting of anagrams or characters from the Lemony Snicket book series (eg. Zattle Latly, Bot Joobers, and Ivan Lachrymose).
He admits he'd rather be a publisher than a writer, and he already talks like one, telling his prospective contributors that he's looking for "news, points of interest, and notable events" that are "original, accurate, and entertaining."
Next issue, for instance, may include an update on the only pregnant woman on the block.