With Captain Acorn Returns hitting shelves this winter, I’m just too excited for words to take readers back to the world of my favorite little squirrel. Writing this second book was an adventure in itself and I genuinely had so much fun coming up with all the new adventures Acorn and her crew encounter. I’ve been dying to share an excerpt and now we’re finally here!
In this particular adventure, Captain Acorn and her loyal but excitable first mate, Pounce, are on a river raft trip with an experienced meerkat. They’ve been enjoying the day, but a simple day with no adventure in it wouldn’t be any fun for Acorn nor is it exactly her cup of tea. So of course something is bound to go haywire in true Acorn and Pounce fashion. Read on to get a taste of Captain Acorn Returns!
Unfortunately, as with most calm and peaceful moments in Captain Acorn’s world, it didn’t last very long. Just as they came to a place where their river and another joined into one, Acorn spotted a strange grayish lump floating near the shore. She held up a paw to squint at it and look closer, but even with her sharp, squirrel eyesight, she had no idea what the strange shape was. Pounce had noticed it too and had come to stand next to her captain and copy her squinting posture.
“What’s that over there, Mr. Digger?” Acorn asked as the meerkat walked across the raft to join them in looking.
“It’s hard to say for sure from here,” he said slowly, standing tall and alert. “But whatever you do…”
If Digger had been about to say, “Don’t throw anything at it,” he was too late. Pounce had hurled a stick across the stretch of water, and it hit the strange lump with a dull thunk. In a way, you could say that Pounce’s stick throwing proved very successful since the moment it hit its mark, the huge lump lifted out of the water and made it clear exactly what it was. The unfortunate thing was that the lump turned out to be the biggest hippopotamus any of the three animals on the raft had ever seen. Even Digger had never seen a hippo that large, which is saying something since he was a local and saw hippos on a regular basis.
The hippopotamus was not exactly happy about the stick throwing, and it wasn’t doing a great job expressing its displeasure. Most hippos aren’t very good at expressing their emotions, and no one’s really been brave enough to try to help them improve. It’s not a job that typically ends well. With a deep, rumbling growl, it splashed through the water and snapped its jaws at the shocked animals with a loud crack that made the fur on the back of their necks stand up. Unfortunately, the size of the hippo created a small tidal wave that pushed their boat down the other river. I say unfortunately because they also shot past a very large sign that read: “Furious Falls! Proceed at your own risk!” None of the animals on the raft had wanted to proceed at their own risk, but the hippo had other ideas, and it was the one calling the shots at the moment.
Captain Acorn and Digger were the first to respond. Acorn took charge of the ship, and Digger started rifling through all his supplies on the raft. Pounce, however, had a very different (and unfortunately less helpful) response to the whole situation.
“CAPTAIN!” Pounce wailed in a scared, shaky voice. “We’re all gonna die!”
“Pounce,” Acorn said with forced calm in her voice, “Unless your yelling is going to help me pilot this raft, I’m going to need you to think of something else to do.”
Pounce tried her best to think of something useful to do, but that’s a difficult thing when you have an angry hippo chasing you in one direction and in the other is a thundering, menacing waterfall. After a moment of looking back and forth in a panic, Pounce settled for sitting down on the boat and covering her eyes. This actually proved to be the most helpful thing she could have done since she managed to sit down out of the way and was now being quiet enough that Acorn could think clearly.
“Mr. Digger!” She called to the meerkat, still forcing herself to be calm and swallowing the lump in her throat. “We need an alternate course.”
Pounce trembled so badly she looked like a sail in a hurricane. It was clear she thought needing an alternate course was oversimplifying the issue and that what they really needed to be doing was going back in time and not taking a river safari in the first place. Terrified as she was, though, she somehow managed to stay quiet and let her captain work.
“Right away, Captain Acorn!” Digger yelled back.
The meerkat was doing much better under all the pressure. This probably had a lot less to do with being braver than Pounce and a lot more to do with the fact that he’d been born and raised in a land where these kinds of dangers were a bit more common. If he were ever to travel to Pounce’s childhood home, he would have likely been terrified of things she saw as everyday annoyances. Sometimes, fears are funny like that.
Digger raced back and forth through the crates on the raft, going in and out of sight. Each time he popped straight into view, he was holding something different. One time he came into view with a shovel in his paw, and another time, he was holding a slinky. Neither of these things seemed likely to help in the situation, but Acorn had no choice but to trust the meerkat and hope for the best. Finally, he popped into view, holding a paddle and a long piece of rope with a loop tied at the end.
“All right!” he called out in the same kind of confident voice Acorn always used when she was feeling uneasy. “We need to pick up speed and keep heading downriver! Trust me!”
You may think that Acorn got her famous reputation by sticking to her way and trusting her own instincts no matter what anyone said, but that was hardly the only way she rose to great fame. The truth is, being a great leader is not just about being fearless or knowing everything about anything. You simply can’t know everything. So the smarter thing to do is find people you can trust who are experts and let them do their job by believing in them. You’d be amazed at how much a person can do when they know someone believes in them.
That’s exactly what Acorn did at that moment. She hadn’t known Digger for more than a few hours, but she had watched him closely enough to understand that he was very good at his job and knew this area better than she ever could. So she made a quick decision that I think was the smartest one she could have made at that moment.
“Very well, Mr. Digger,” she said in her calmest voice, “we’ll do what you say.”
There you have it! If you like the sound of this and want to know what happens to Acorn, Pounce, Mr. Digger, and that less than happy hippopotamus make sure you get your very own copy of Captain Acorn Returns! The book will be available for preorder on January 31st and will be fully released on February 15th! Mark your calendars!
Let’s find some joy,