Author: E. Renee Heiss

Illustrator: Chelsea Sekanic
Publisher: Character Publisher
ISBN: 978-0-9839355-5-1


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 … someday,” young Woody explains in Woody’s World, a novella by E. Renee Heiss.

At one hundred and twenty-one pages, this small hardbound book has a black and white photograph of a young boy during the Depression holding a red apple on the front cover with the back jacket having three paragraphs about the book’s contents. Laced with some profanity and pubescent voyeurism, the short story may not be acceptable to some parents who carefully monitor their young children’s reading. Small, sometimes grainy, drawings by illustrator Sekanic are at the beginning of every chapter. 

Loosely based on memories of the author’s father, this tome is set in in 1929 when the stock market crashes and the Great Depression affects almost every household in America. Written in first person by thirteen year old Woody, he, his younger, disabled sister Emma and his parents adjust to living on a limited income with no electricity, heat or enough food as they try to survive. Entrepreneur Woody conceives clever ways to make money from bottle, magazine and coat hanger collecting to heating their house with gathered coal and offering lemon water for tips from construction workers while his father works months at a time with a railroad gang.

With rich friend Henry, poor black Elmer, and Italian Tony, Woody grows from a selfish, trouble-maker to a considerate, compassionate young man as he tries earnestly to gain love and respect from his challenging father. With his friends in tow, Woody explains life during those lean years as he finds a dead Revolutionary War soldier, sits in the black section of the movie theater, catches a pig to feed his family and goes to Boy Scout Camp after winning a raffle.

With his father’s imaginary chocolate bar that spells out RESPECT, Woody fears more letters will be taken away with each of his wrong doings, whether from sledding into a trolley, using hard earned money to enter a free-turkey contest, spying on eight grade girls undressing or accidentally using profanity during a school play. It is only when he starts to think of others that he understands the word respect and finally gets the cherished approval from his father. 

In spite of the limited swearing and references to preteen flatulence, the book not only teaches how the Depression changed both adults and children, but it shows that respect is an earned privilege, hard work pays off and true friendship should be valued.

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