A young bat has to master the art of landing... Bat Style!
Another day was ending over the old story tree in Buttenhauser's Meadow. As the sun set, the forest creatures of both the night and day gathered at the tree to watch the full moon rise. Full-moon nights were always exciting, because that's when Grandpa Owl would read a new story from his book of twilight tales.
Silvery rays of light fell onto the thick branches of the old tree as Grandpa Owl emerged from his nest. Carrying the big book of stories in his giant, gray-feathered wings, he perched on his favorite branch. Everyone grew quiet, wondering what tonight's story could be.
The sound of wildly flapping wings filled the air. "Look out," cried Nelly. "Nosedive is coming!" The little squirrel scampered to the ground in a flash of red-brown fur. Nosedive's arrival always caused alarm. Although the young bat could fly, landing was still a problem.
Nosedive came speeding in and tried to catch a branch. Turning too late, he crashed into Red, who had just found a good spot above Grandpa Owl. The woodpecker let out a loud squawk as he fell into the open storybook and landed on Grandpa Owl's wing. Before hitting the ground, the heavy book clipped one of Hopper the rabbit's long ears. "Ow," yelped hopper and covered the wound with a paw. The other animals scattered in surprise.
After he had returned Red to his perch, Grandpa Owl flew down to get his book and dusted it off. He made sure no pages were torn before taking his place on the branch. All the creatures scurried back to the tree, angry and complaining. Nosedive tried to apologize, but no one listened.
"Why don't you watch where you're going," yelled Red. "Someone's going to get hurt one day!"
"Someone already did," Hopper complained, still holding his ear.
"I didn't mean to--" began Nosedive, but Red interrupted him.
"You should stay away until you can land. You're too dangerous!"
"But--" Nosedive began again.
"Ow, my ear! I think there's a hole in it," said Hopper.
"Don't be such a baby, it's not that bad," said Nelly.
"I'm sorry, Hopper," Nosedive said again.
Without a word, Hopper turned away and hastened into his burrow. Nosedive curled up at the bottom of the tree and hid his face in the folds of his wings while everyone continued to protest. He wished he could make himself invisible. Grandpa Owl then called over the squawking, chirping, barking and howling to get everyone's attention.
"I know everyone is angry," began Grandpa Owl, "but our friend Basil is new to flying and hasn't yet learned the art of landing." Hearing Grandpa Owl call him by his proper name, Basil, Nosedive lifted his head and looked into the branches of the tree. "Now, there are quite a few of us here who have also had problems while learning to fly," Grandpa owl continued, looking up at Red. "Rather than complaining, we should help our friend solve his problem. Practice makes perfect, after all."
Everyone apologized to Nosedive. His friends, Nelly and Ollie Owl, then came up with an idea. They could help Nosedive practice landing! Nosedive thought it was a great idea, too, and wanted to start right away. Nelly looked up at Nosedive's older brother Belfry, hanging from a branch in the middle of the tree. "You can help, too, Belfry."
"Me? No way, I've got better things to do than teach Nosedive," Belfry replied.
"But you're a bat and we need somebody who can show Nosedive, uh, Basil what to do," said Ollie.
Belfry turned away, wrapping his leathery wings around his body, "Well, not me!"
Disappointed, Nelly, Ollie and Nosedive searched the branches for anyone else who could help. Red went into his nest and pretended to sleep so no one would ask him.
"Wouldn't anyone else like to lend a wing?"
asked Grandpa Owl.
Nosedive smiled, "Aces! Thanks, Ellis."
"Bravo," Grandpa Owl said, clapping his wings. "You can start practicing tomorrow night. Right now, it's story time."
The Big News
After the story, Belfry and Nosedive flew home to meet their parents. Back in their cave, Nosedive almost crashed into the TV before his father caught him.
"Whoa there, buddy. We need to work on your approach," he joked.
"Guess what, Dad?" Nosedive asked.
"What?" his father replied.
"Tomorrow, Ellis, Ollie and Nelly are going to help me practice landing," Nosedive reported.
"That's great," his father exclaimed. "But I thought we were going to practice together."
"If it's ok, I'd rather practice with my friends," Nosedive said.
"That's fine," said Papa Bat. "They'll be an enormous help, I'm sure."
"You'll be landing in no time," his mother encouraged.
Nosedive beamed at his parents' approval, but Belfry quickly dampened his brother's spirits.
"Nosedive will never learn to land," he said, peering over his moon-glasses.
"That is not your brother's name, Belfry," their father said in his sternest voice.
Belfry knew that his brother didn't like that nickname. He'd started calling Basil Nosedive after his very first crash and the name stuck.
"You could always help you know," Papa Bat continued. "It would be the big-brother thing to do."
"No way! My friends would laugh," Belfry replied. "And besides, he's too scared. He's more a chicken than a bat," Belfry laughed.
Nosedive looked at Belfry, whose grin angered him even more. "Who needs you anyway! You couldn't teach a fish to swim!" Nosedive stormed off to bed. "I'll show you," he muttered.
Belfry looked over to find his parents glaring at him. "What?"
Let's Get Going!
In the cooler temperatures of early evening, Ellis, Ollie, Nelly and Hopper arrived at Nosedive's home. Ellis made bugle sounds, while the others called for Nosedive to wake up. As he emerged from the cave, Nosedive yawned and greeted his friends. "What's going on?" he asked.
"It's time for landing practice," said Ellis.
"So early?" asked Nosedive.
"You need to practice if you want to land by story time," explained Ollie.
"Yeah, c'mon, sleepyhead," said Nelly. "Let's get going!"
"Quiet down out there. Some of us still want to sleep!" Belfry yelled from inside the cave.
The friends ignored Belfry and continued talking. Nosedive went back inside to change out of his PJs then returned with a long sigh. "Ready."
"You don't sound very ready," said Nelly.
"No worries, I'm a landing expert, remember," said Ellis. "With my help, you'll be able to land in no time!"
Hopper handed Nosedive a gift wrapped with wrinkly paper and a crumpled red bow. "Here, you should wear this." As Nosedive took the package, he noticed the band-aid on Hopper's injured ear.
"Sorry again about your ear," he said.
"Don't worry about it," said Hopper. "It's not bad. Go on, open your gift."
Nosedive tore into the wrapping, "Whoa! A helmet!" He strapped the red and white striped helmet onto his head and pulled the sky-blue goggles over his eyes. Nosedive felt like a superhero.
"Aces! Thanks, Hopper," Nosedive said.
"No problem," said Hopper and started off for home.
"You're not coming with us?" asked Nosedive.
"No, I don't want to run into old Barnabas," explained Hopper.
"Oh, he never comes out this early," said Ollie.
"Anyway, I want to get back early enough to find a good spot," Hopper replied.
Hopper said goodbye to his friends and hurried back to the old story tree. Ollie, Ellis, Nelly and Nosedive set off to the meadow to find a place for Nosedive to practice landing. They were sure that by story time, Nosedive would be landing like a pro.
If at First You Don't Succeed ...
At the edge of the meadow, Ollie, Nellie, Ellis and Nosedive found the perfect tree to practice in. It was just the right height, and between the branches there was enough space for Nosedive to avoid crashing.
Ellis took charge and began explaining his landing technique, but Ollie quickly interrupted him. "Nosedive flies at night like me, so I should show him how to land," he insisted. Ollie took off and flew a circle above the tree before he swooped down to land on one of the lower branches. "See, just like that!"
"I can do it better," said Ellis. Determined to prove he was the expert, Ellis flew up then came back down, flapping his wings to gently lower himself onto the branch next to Ollie. "That's how you land."
"Bats don't land on branches," said Nelly. "They catch them like I do when I jump to a new tree." Nelly climbed the tree and jumped from one branch to another, showing Nosedive how to grab onto them.
Nosedive tried each method, but none of them worked. "This is going to take longer than I thought," said Ellis. Nelly could see that Nosedive was getting tired.
"Let's take a break and try again tomorrow," she suggested. The friends agreed and Nosedive went home to get some rest before story time.
Though practice didn't go as he'd hoped, Nosedive was determined to surprise everyone at story time with a perfect landing. He fell back to sleep. Nosedive awoke soon after to the sounds of his family preparing to leave for their nightly routines.
"Up and at 'em sleepyhead," he heard his dad call. "You don't want to miss Grandpa Owl's story, do you?" Nosedive sprang out of bed and rushed from the cave.
"We'll see you at the meadow later," his mother called after him.
"Ok!" Nosedive said and hurried off to the old story tree.
Nosedive reached the tree and spotted an empty branch to make his landing. He felt confident in his brightly colored helmet and goggles as he dove for his target. "I can do it," he said to himself.
As he approached the branch, Nelly, Ollie and Ellis watched. "Come on N.D., you can do it," they whispered. But Nosedive bounced off the branch and crashed into Grandpa Owl again, causing the story book to fly into the air. Luckily, Nosedive landed in a mound of soft moss at the bottom of the tree. He sat up, somewhat dazed to find Hopper in front of him. "Good that you wore the helmet," he said.
In the meantime, Grandpa Owl recovered from his
scare quickly enough to save
"That was a good try today. Still, I think it would be a good idea if you skipped story time until you're able to land."
"But I practiced!" said Nosedive.
"Yes, and that's good," replied Grandpa Owl. "But to learn anything, it takes a lot more practice than just a day," he explained. "I'm sure if you keep trying, you'll be able to land very soon. Right now, though, it's just too dangerous."
"Ok," replied Nosedive doing his best to hide his disappointment.
Ellis, Hopper, Nelly and Ollie could see how sad he was. They gathered around to cheer him up.
"No worries," said Ellis. "We'll practice until you get it."
"Right, same time tomorrow," added Nelly. "Be ready."
His friend's encouragement lifted Nosedive's spirits. As night fell, Ellis, Nelly and Hopper went off to sleep. Nosedive didn't feel much like meeting his parents over the meadow, so he flew home. Ollie kept him company on the way and made Nosedive laugh with stories of when he had learned to fly. When he got home, Nosedive was in a much better mood and was looking forward to practicing again.
The next day, the friends met at their practice tree. They were sure this time, Nosedive would get it. Right away, Ellis told Nosedive what to do. Again, Ollie cut in.
"Your way didn't work last time," said Ollie.
"Yours didn't either," answered Ellis.
"It would have if you hadn't been showing off," Ollie replied.
"You're both wrong, anyway," said Nelly. She suggested that Nosedive try to grab hold of a branch instead of trying to land on it.
"And then you just turn upside down like bats do," Nelly said.
"That might work," said Nosedive.
Taking flight, Nosedive spotted a branch he could grab onto and once again he dove for it. "Got it," he shouted. But the branch bent like a bow as he seized it, then threw him back into the air. "Lookout!" cried Ollie. He flew out of the way just in time. Ellis, angry that no one would listen to him, forgot to pay attention and was right in Nosedive's path. The two crashed with a loud thud and fell to the ground. Ellis was furious!
"You never watch where you're going," he yelled.
"I couldn't help it," said Nosedive. "The branch made me go too fast!"
"I told you to watch out, Ellis," said Ollie. "You should have been paying attention."
Ellis glared at Ollie. He was about to say something mean, but Nelly interrupted. "Let's try a branch that doesn't bend so easily," she suggested. But Ellis was too angry to listen.
"I quit!" he yelled. "You'll never learn to land anyway," he told Nosedive before flying away.
Ollie and Nelly were also angry. They felt Nosedive wasn't trying hard enough and left as well. Alone at the practice tree, Nosedive decided to leave Buttenhauser's Meadow for good.
The next morning at dawn, Nosedive's family returned to their cave. Since he hadn't met up with them after story time, his parents worried when they didn't find Nosedive at home. Belfry didn't worry at all. He was sure that his annoying little brother was still out practice-landing and wearing that dumb helmet.
It was getting late. The sun was already peeking over the horizon and Nosedive still wasn't home. Now Belfry started worrying, too. The family went out to alert everyone in the meadow that Nosedive was missing.
Nosedive's friends began searching all their favorite hiding spots, even Red helped.
"Daytime is so dangerous for bats," said Nosedive's mother, her voice all trembly. "What if he can't find a safe place to sleep?"
"He's a smart boy," said Papa Bat. "I'm sure he'll be ok. Everyone is looking, so we'll find him," he said.
The bat family returned to their home to rest up for the search. But Belfry couldn't sleep. He felt bad about being mean to his brother and for not helping him learn to land.
The day was ending and there was still no sign of Nosedive. Eager to find him, Belfry raced out to search as soon as the sun set.
Meanwhile, Nosedive had gotten lost in the forest. He'd intended to make a new home at the lake where he and his family had lived in a hollow tree when he was younger. There the ground was much softer, and he thought it would be the perfect place for a bat who couldn't land.
As night fell, he peeked out from an old nest in an oak tree he'd crashed into. Scared and hungry, Nosedive realized running away was a terrible idea and decided to go home.
Not sure if he was going in the right direction, Nosedive's colorful helmet caught the eye of a long-eared owl. "Mmm, breakfast," he thought. "And with such pretty decoration!"
Nosedive was busy searching for something familiar that could guide him home. He didn't notice the large shadow coming at him from below, until he looked down. "Barnabas!" he cried and spun out of there as fast as he could. But Barnabas was not about to let his snack get away. He flew after Nosedive, looking forward to a tasty meal.
The Great Escape
With Barnabas close behind, Nosedive twisted and turned, curved and spun in every direction. He was almost running out of tricks to avoid Barnabas' sharp talons when he noticed something familiar. It was Buttenhauser's Meadow--and his practice tree! That gave him an idea and he dove for it.
Barnabas tried to follow Nosedive but couldn't keep up. Seeing the tree below, Barnabas was sure that Nosedive would crash and slowed down to wait for the little bat to hit the ground.
Nosedive stretched out his hands and grabbed onto the branch that had made him crash into Ellis. The branch bent so far that Nosedive's feet almost touched the ground before it sent him shooting back toward the sky.
Aiming his helmet straight at Barnabas, Nosedive wrapped his wings around his body as tightly as he could. "Oh, what luck," said Barnabas as he saw Nosedive heading toward him.
The owl flew down expecting to snare his breakfast. What he got was a beakful of Nosedive's helmet! Barnabas spun backward and fell to the ground as Nosedive shot off like a rocket. When he thought he was high enough, Nosedive raced toward home without looking back.
On the way, Nosedive met his big brother. "Belfry," Nosedive called. "Am I glad to see you!" Belfry had recognized Nosedive's helmet in the moonlight and was rushing to his aid when he saw Nosedive's escape.
"Nosedive," he called back. "That was AWESOME! You knocked old Barnabas right out of the sky!"
"We should get out of here before he wakes up," said Nosedive.
The brothers hurried home, where Belfry told their parents how Nosedive got away from Barnabas. Happy to have him back, Nosedive's parents hugged him so tightly he almost couldn't breathe. "You were really brave, son," said his father. "But you're grounded--maybe for life!"
Word quickly spread throughout the meadow that Nosedive was safe at home. They heard how he had stood up to the scariest creature in the forest. The thought of losing Nosedive made Belfry realize how much he cared for his brother.
"If you want, Basil, I can help you with your landing," Belfry said. "After all, to land like a bat you need a bat to show you how!"
"Aces," said Nosedive. "Thanks!"
After a few seconds, he looked at Belfry in surprise. "Hey, you
just called me by my real name!"
Nosedive No More
Later that afternoon, Ollie, Ellis and Nelly paid Nosedive a visit.
"We're so glad you're home," said Nelly. "We were really scared!"
"If you still want to, we'd like to help you practice again," said Ellis.
"Sure," Nosedive said. " We'll surprise the whole meadow at the next story time!
With Belfry's help and the others cheering him on, Nosedive soon learned the right way to land. He could hardly wait to show everyone. Ollie, Ellis and Nelly left for the meadow, but Belfry lingered.
"C'mon Belfry, they're going to start without us," Nosedive called.
"Relax, we have plenty of time," Belfry said.
The brothers reached the old story tree at moonrise. Everyone watched as Nosedive performed a perfect bat-landing. They all cheered. Grandpa Owl waited for the applause to end, then opened his big book of twilight tales. He gave Nosedive a wink and began a new story.
"Once, there was a young bat who had trouble landing ..."
Nosedive's eyes opened wide in surprise, and he beamed with pride.
"Basil, why are you still wearing that helmet?" Belfry whispered. "You know how to land now."
"Because it looks cool," answered Nosedive, "and it works great for getting rid of hungry owls!"