The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: May 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An excerpt from Woody's World

So many people have asked what my elementary chapter book, Woody's World is like, that I have decided to post an excerpt during Children's Book Week.  If you like what you read, you can order the book at Character Publishing. Now on sale!  Also, if you order a classroom set of 20 or more, I will send you my 8-week, 98-page Study Guide that includes a variety of learning experiences for third and fourth grade readers. (A $13.95 value at Teachers Pay Teachers) Woody's World recently won a 2013 Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

Happy reading and please post a comment:
to post the first chapter here for your review during


Chapter One
The Princeton Trolley

            “We can’t make it,” I screamed.  “Stop!”
            “Trust me, Woody,” Henry yelled over his shoulder.  “We can beat the trolley.”
            I clutched the sides of our sled as we slid toward the tracks on a collision course with the morning travelers.  I had to decide whether to roll off the speeding sled and risk breaking several bones or to stay with Henry and risk getting killed.
            “Hold on!” Henry shouted.
            I dug my fingers into Henry’s shoulders and prayed that I had been good enough in my twelve years to merit a hereafter in Heaven.  All the times I had teased my little sister exploded into awareness.  All the times I had lied to my parents or cheated on a test flooded my mind.  I was doomed!
            I leaned forward and hunched over Henry’s pea coat.  My heart raced faster than the sled.  Hundreds of electric sparks shot past my head.  Hot oil from the tracks assaulted my nose as we slipped in front of the trolley.  I couldn’t tell whether the screaming came from me or from the travelers.
            We coasted to a stop and scrambled out of the sled into a foot of drifted snow. Even though it was twenty degrees out, I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants.  Then I stared back at the trolley as it clack-clack-clacked its way toward Princeton Junction.
“Toot, toot!”  Henry made the trolley sound and pulled an imaginary cord.
            “Are you crazy?  You could have gotten us killed!  You could have ruined my sled!”  I flapped my arms in the air trying to shake off the lingering fear.  Henry stood motionless, gazing down the tracks.
            “Are you listening to me?”  I shook his shoulders.
            Without turning around, he said, “Woody, that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.”
            “No, that was the most stupid thing we’ve ever done.  How did you know we would miss the trolley?”
            “I didn’t.  I thought it was worth a try.  I knew it would slow down before it went around the corner.  It worked, didn’t it?  You’re alive.  Your precious sled is in one piece.”
            I wrestled Henry into the drift.  We rolled around and around, laughing and punching each other until we both fell back, exhausted.
            “Don’t you ever do that to me again, Henry.”
            “Do what?  Have some fun and excitement?”
            He was impossible.  Since we first met in kindergarten, I’d never known him to be careful about anything.  And that’s what I liked about him.  My childhood would have been dull and boring without him.
            I picked up the cord of my sled and started toward home.  It was lunchtime.  Mom said she’d have tuna sandwiches and tomato soup for us.
            “Henry, don’t tell Mom about the trolley.”
            Henry looked at me for a moment, then ran his fingers through his thick, curly red hair.  “I may be foolish, but I’m not crazy.”
            Henry wasn’t crazy, but somebody on the train was a snitch.  When I got home, my father barred my way through the door.  His crossed arms and spread stance told me I was in bigger trouble than the time I had snuck a mouse into Miss Mallory’s handbag.
            “Woodrow Michael Bartram, are you out of your mind?” he boomed.
            “What do you mean?”  I took a step backwards, lengthening the distance between myself and Dad’s belt.
            “Uncle Mike saw you and Henry slide in front of the trolley today.  He called as soon as he got in the station.”
            I hung my head.  “It was either that or break my neck jumping from the sled,” I mumbled.  Out the corner of my eye, I saw Henry tiptoe from the inquisition on the porch.
            “Speak up, boy.  I’m sure you said you were sorry that you almost caused your mother and me to make funeral plans for you.”
            I could tell that the lecture would go on for hours, but at least he didn’t take off his belt.  The welts on my bottom had just disappeared from my last whoopin’.  Dad finished his sermon about responsibility with his usual comparison.  “Respect is like a Hershey bar, boy.  Every time you make someone lose respect for you, part of the candy bar gets eaten away.”
I had heard this analogy twice already.  The R disappeared when I thought it would be fun to drive the car up and down the driveway.  I wouldn’t have gotten caught if the tree hadn’t jumped out in front of me. Then I lost the E when Henry and I decided to climb up to the top of the Princeton water tower. We had taken sandwiches and a canteen of water and had only taken one bite when Dad found us.  Now the S was gone.
“Better watch yourself, boy,” Dad said.
“Yes, sir. I’ll try to be more responsible.”
            “Trying isn’t good enough.  You have to know how to be responsible.”
            The lecture continued for another hour with extra chores for a week added to my list and a quick lashing with his belt as we went inside the house.  Obviously, Mom knew nothing about my half-eaten RESPECT bar.  She gave me a hug and asked if I’d had fun sledding with Henry.  That day I vowed I’d make my old man proud of me … somehow… some day.
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