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Captain H. Tanny

Captain H. Tanny is the Creative Youth Center’s elusive, globe-trotting friend. No one has ever met the Captain, but many of us have been fortunate enough to have received encouragement in our writing and tales of the Captain’s adventures. We’ve collected correspondence and other inspiring tidbits we thought the Captain–and you–would enjoy. Check back for writing prompts, new postcards, and all manner of whimsy.


Ahoy, me mateys!

Somethin’ fishy has been happening to yer cap’n lately. As ye know, she has been readin’ the Book of Explosions VI with Dumple the One-Eyed Pirate by her side. But that’s not the fishy part.

The fishy part happens at night. Some nights, sittin’ round the fire, after closin’ the book and lying on me back to gaze at the stars above, ye cap’n hears a noise comin’ from the island’s forest. One night, we heard the grumble that sounded like a sleeping dragon’s belly rumbling from hunger. Another night, we heard two funny voices talkin’ back and forth, calling each other “Duck” and “Goose.” All of these noises sounded familiar, though she could not place them in her memory. And then, worst of all, last night yer cap’n heard the roar of some gigantic beast deep in the forest. Almost sounded like a dinosaur’s growl.

“That’s it!” ye cap’n said. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”

Dumple stood trembling in his one boot. His other leg, the wooden one, shook so hard it kicked sand around.

“Cap’n,” he said. “You don’t mean to go in there?” He pointed into the woods.

“Yer cap’n isn’t afraid of no monster sounds.” But even as Captain H. Tanny said it, young adventurers, her stomach hurt just behind the navel and the last place on earth she wanted to be was in those woods. She would have rather been out on the ocean with Boogie the Ghost Pirate on her tail than go in those woods! But once a Captain says she’ll do somethin’, a Captain doesn’t like to go back on her word. “Come on, Dumple.”

She followed the sounds, which turned from roars to the thrashing of a giant tail against trees, knocking them to the ground. Yer cap’n knew somethin’ big awaited her round the way, but she intended to put a stop to the racket. Dumple sniffled at her back, eyes wide.

She came upon it before long. A thick tail, two giant feet, and two skinny arms flailing uselessly in the air. It was a tyrannosaurus rex!

“Cap’n,” Dumple said. “Is that what I think it is?”

And that’s when it came to ye cap’n, young adventurers. All the noises, all the voices Dumple ‘n I heard the past few nights–it all came from characters in the Book of Explosions VI!

The T. Rex sniffed the air and stopped its thrashing. It slowly turned its massive head toward us.

“Ahoy there, matey!” yer cap’n called to the carnivore, despite her terror. “What’s with all this racket?”

The dinosaur lumbered straight at us! Dumple let out a squeal and jumped behind ye cap’n, who closed her eyes and braced herself for the chomp of sharp teeth around her body.

But she didn’t feel a chomp, and a second later she heard a teeny whimpering sound–and it wasn’t coming from Dumple. Yer cap’n opened her eyes to see the giant T. Rex lying in front of her, crying!

“Great shivering poop deck!” yer cap’n said. “What’s wrong big fella?”

The T. Rex lifted its mighty foot into the air. Yer cap’n could see a large burn mark on the dino’s foot, and that’s when she realized it was the same dinosaur as the one in Walter’s story! It must have been burned from a river of lava.

“You poor thing!” she said. “Want to follow us back to the ship? We have a first aid kit on board.”

Dumple still hadn’t opened his one good eye, and he muttered to himself, and his teeth chattered rapidly like a woodpecker’s beak against tree bark. So yer cap’n grabbed his hand and the T. Rex’s tiny claw at the end of its tiny arm and led them both back to the boat.

As this strange group walked out of the forest, yer cap’n sensed a change in the air. It was colder, and the sky suddenly darkened, and a thick fog hung over the water. The boat was nowhere to be seen. But yer cap’n thought it might have been a dark mass just visible through the fog. The shadow was coming closer, and closer…

Dumple the One-Eyed Pirate seemed to wake up. He opened his eye to see a giant T. Rex standing over him and the ghoulish ship of Boogie the Ghost Pirate drifting to the shore.

“Shiver me timbers,” he said, and collapsed to the sand.

To be continued!


Ahoy, me mateys!

Last time ye heard from old Captain H. Tanny, she had unearthed the greatest buried treasure: The Book of Explosions VI: Collecting Shadows & Lights! Since then, yer cap’n has spent some time relaxing on a beautiful beach in a top secret location. And no, I won’t be tellin’ ye where! Ye wouldn’t want Boogie the Ghost Pirate to come and find me, would ye? All he cares about is gettin’ his treasure back from me. Speakin’ of treasure….

Yer cap’n spends a great deal o’ time readin’ yer writing, and has been doing so for hundreds o’ years. But in all me time as Cap’n of these Seven Seas (plus the rivers on the moon) she has never read so beautiful writing as is written in the new Book of Explosions! It’s the best summer readin’ she’s had in a long time. On warm summer evenings, ye cap’n reads by the light o’ the fire while Dumple the One-Eyed Pirate listens closely. It’s a lovely time.

So, young adventurers and writers, ye cap’n writes to ye this summer to say: Keep on writin’! Send me all the poems and stories and letters ye want! The CYC loves writers doin’ what they do. Argh, mateys, ye cap’n loves a good story!

Captain H. Tanny



Ahoy, me mateys!

Yer cap’n has been seekin’ the greatest buried treasure for years and years, and now she’s finally got it!

The first time yer cap’n saw the treasure map, she knew a glorious treasure awaited her. “X” marks the spot, they always say, and this “X” was big and red and placed right in the center of the dreaded Ghoul Island!

“Shiver me timbers,” Dumple the One-Eyed Pirate said, peering over me shoulder at the map. “We just escaped the Ghost Pirate, cap’n! Now we have to go to his wicked island to find the treasure?”

“Dumple, this be no ordinary treasure,” yer cap’n said. “This be a book of the greatest importance. Whoever owns this book will be the richest pirate in all the Seven Seas! Now swab the poop deck.”

Settin’ sail at midnight, yer cap’n and Dumple reached the foggy harbor of Ghoul Island and set anchor into the murky waters. Dumple rowed the dingy to the shore, and the long march towards the center of the island began. The trail curved through swamp and forest, cave and river, until yer cap’n followed the map all the way to the “X”.

“We’re standing right over it!” yer cap’n howled, and yer two favorite pirates dug and dug with their fingertips, deep into the sand until they struck the wooden chest.

“Oh, cap’n!” Dumple squealed.

Yer cap’n seized the chest with both hands and hollered, “Heave!”

The earth held on to the chest, but yer cap’n had worked too hard and come too far to give up. With a final, mighty heave, and a spray of dirt, she yanked the chest from the ground! It slammed into the sand with a whoof! 

“Whoever owns this treasure will be rich beyond her wildest imagination!” yer cap’n said. Her eyes shimmered in the moonlight. Dumple sniffled back tears.

Yer cap’n, holding her breath, leaned down and popped the lid off the chest. Inside, covered in shadow, she saw a dusty book.

“What does it say, Cap’n?” Dumple said, biting his fat bottom lip.

Yer cap’n lifted the book into the moonlight and slapped the dust away from the cover. “Book of Explosions VI: Collecting Shadows & Lights.” Tears filled yer cap’n’s eyes. “Dumple, we did it!”

“What does it do?” Dumple said, scratching his chin.

“Silly Dumple,” yer cap’n said, “you read it!”

And so, when your favorite pirates returned to their boat and set sail again into the great waters, they sat together on the deck and swapped turns reading stories and poems from the beautiful book. The cap’n knew she hadn’t reached the end of her adventures or troubles, but she felt better knowing she could return to the book whenever she wanted to feel inspired again.

“Cap’n,” Dumple said, peering through the pirate telescope. “There be a spooky ship lurkin’ on the horizon. The Ghost Pirate be comin’ for us. He be wantin’ his treasure back.”

The wind punched at the sails, and the clouds slid like sheets over the moon.

“What do we do?”

Yer cap’n smiled, closed the book, and stood up.

“We do what we always do when we face trouble, Dumple,” she said. “We carry on.”

And so yer cap’n may not write to ye fer a while, mateys, since she be coastin’ the Seven Seas to flee the Ghost Pirate. But know that yer cap’n be safe, and know that she will write to ye again soon enough.


Captain H. Tanny, Owner of the Greatest Book Ever Written


Ahoy, me mateys!

Ye cap’n be writin’ to ye today, safe ‘n sound, from a secret location. Ye cap’n can’t be too careful, since she be hidin’ out after her escape from Boogie the dreadful Ghost Pirate. Brrrrrrr! Just thinkin’ o’ the ghastly spirit gives yer cap’n the heebie-jeebies!

If ye read yer cap’n’s previous letter, ye will recall yer cap’n was about to be chased around the Seven Seas by Boogie. But ye cap’n had a stroke o’ luck! With the treasure hauled from the bottom o’ Lake Michigan, ye cap’n ‘n her first matey, Dumple the One-Eyed Pirate, bought us a brand new cruiser–a beauty o’ a ship, the speediest vessel that ever did slide into these fine waters.

So when Boogie’s spooky ship appeared on the horizon, cloaked in fog and haunting screams, Dumple stood quakin’ on deck in his boots. “What do we do, Cap’n?” he said with a tremble.

“Argh!” ye cap’n called, gatherin’ all the courage in her pirate bones. “Full speed ahead to our Top Secret Cove!”

Dumple flew the main sail, billowin’ in the mightiest o’ winds, ‘n with our brand new vessel, we flew–over the waves like a speeding cannonball, until Boogie the Ghost Pirate was no where in sight. We eased our beautiful ship into our secret harbor, which ye cap’n has kept secret for nigh on the longest o’ decades. Safe ‘n sound, ye cap’n is–‘n Dumple, too–once he changed out of his soiled undergarments and into some dry pirate clothes.

It’s not the life we had planned on, me first matey ‘n me, but it’ll do. We may be eatin’ skewered crab ‘n seaweed kabob for the rest o’ our days, but this is a good life, after all. Safe ‘n sound, says ye cap’n again.

“Cheers, Dumple!” ye cap’n roars, raisin’ a glass of sea water to Dumple.

“What do we name our new vessel, Cap’n?”

Ye cap’n chewed her crunchy crab leg thoughtfully, nearly chippin’ a tooth in the effort.

“Ye cap’n has no idea, Dumple.” But if some smart young writer out there has an idea, let the Cap’n know! Ye cap’n is hidin’ away so a letter can’t reach her, but you can email to give us an idea! Ye cap’n wouldn’t build a secret hideaway without wifi access, now would she?

Until next time, me mateys. ‘N send some yummy food if ye can! Crab legs ‘n seaweed will do for a day or two…but ye cap’n may be hidin’ out for a while.


Ahoy, me mateys!

Ye cap’n be a bit confused today. Landlubbers be runnin’ about wearin’ green and tossin’ gold coins every which-way–and what’s the fuss about these four-leaf clovers? Argh. Days like these, when the landlegs be actin’ foolish, ye cap’n takes to the high seas! And today he had a bit o’ good fortune!

T’was the strangest sight ye cap’n ever did see on the horizon of Lake Michigan today. A rainbow dropped its anchor from the sky into the water, so Dumple ‘n I sailed to that spot. Ye cap’n slipped into the diving gear himself, ye know, slidin’ on them big footy flippers and fittin’ a pair o’ goggles over me eye patch. And then–ahoy! Far below the wiggly waves, tucked into the mucky sand, ye cap’n found himself a treasure chest! He heaved that clunker onto the deck and Dumple the One-eyed Pirate scraped off the mussels that clung to it like paint to a wall.

“Cap’n,” says Dumple. “What do we do with this booty?” In Dumple’s one good eye, ye cap’n saw a shimmer of dread. After all, the last time ye cap’n and Dumple found us some booty, it belonged to the beastly Ghost Pirate, Boogie. Argh, that Boogie! Always takin’ what ye cap’n finds among the lakebed’s bounty. Curse him!

Did ye cap’n feel the fear of the dark ocean in his belly as he stared at that treasure chest? ‘N did ye cap’n growl into his soggy beard, step forward, and heave that chest open on that sunny deck anyway? Ye bet ye cap’n’s bottom shilling he did! As the old hinges creaked and the lid fell back, there shimmered a mound of shiny gold coins!

“Oh, me Seven Seas,” says Dumple.

Why, there be enough gold coins in that chest to pay for a whole new ship! And ye cap’n confesses he be needin’ a new ship, me mateys. There be holes here ‘n there where salty water be spoutin’ through. All the other pirates at sea be laughin’ at ye cap’n as his hunker floats by. ‘N ye cap’n can’t be the butt of any joke–no, he works too hard for that.

So in that moment ye cap’n believes his eyes were bigger than his mortal fear of the Ghost Pirate, for ye cap’n slammed that lid shut and called for all hands on deck.

“Ahoy, mateys!” he says. “Full speed ahead to the New Boat Docks!”

Did ye cap’n feel a shudder run through his spine, ‘n could he feel the eyes of the Ghost Pirate, wherever he be on the Seven Seas, turn in his direction? ‘N did ye cap’n fear that one day soon he’d eye the ghostly sails of Boogie’s ship driftin’ along the horizon? Ye cap’n confesses he did. So ye cap’n faced the sunlight, ‘n in that glow he examined his peg leg, ‘n wondered if there might be enough moolah to give it a polish after settin’ sail in a shiny new ship. He felt that there might be. Enough for that ‘n a new eye patch, too. T’was a fortunate day indeed, me mateys.



Brrrrrr, mateys!

Ye cap’n be writin’ to ye from the cold depths o’ outer space. ‘N ye thought Michigan was cold in winter? Argh!

Me first matey ‘n I set anchor on the coldest rock in our solar system. Ever hear o’ Pluto? This dwarf planet be completely covered in ice. Me buttocks be frozen to th’ core!

“Cap’n,” says Dumple, me first matey, “Pluto be smaller than Earth’s moon! ‘N it’s colder than a polar bear’s belly. When be we settin’ sail for home?”

But Dumple don’t be knowin’ why we came here to begin with: to find the coldest treasure chest in the galaxy! Icebeard the Pirate hid his secret treasure somewhere on ’tis icy rock, ‘n we ain’t leavin’ ’til we find it. Even if that means waitin’ ’til Pluto orbits the Sun (which be 246 Earth years, so I be hopin’ it don’t come to that).

Meanwhile, send yer cap’n some letters about yer cold winter adventures! If only we’d brought somethin’ to read way out here…

Brrrrrrrrrrs to ye,

Cap’n H. Tanny, Cap’n o’ the Seven Seas of the Earth ‘n Pluto




Ahoy, fellow adventurers!

I, ye wild (and majestic) cap’n, be writin’ ye from the moon! Oh ho! I’ve set sail through space to celebrate Thanksgiving. Bet ye didn’t be knowin’ yer cap’n could travel through space, did ye?

Truth is, ye cap’n has been gettin’ sick of eatin’ normal turkey. Cap’n Tanny’s been searchin’ the Seven Seas for some new, yummy bird, but fish is all we ever be findin’. Argh!

So we dropped anchor on the big beautiful rock in the sky–land ho! Me first matey, Dumple the One-eyed Pirate, says, “Cap’n! I be knowin’ those astronauts who first set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, ate turkey up here.”

Notebook“Argh!” I says to Dumple. “What kind o’ names are those for pirates?”

“Ye be missin’ the point,” says Dumple, winkin’ that one eye at me. “There be turkey on the moon, if ye be knowin’ where to look!”

So we scoured that tumblin’ space rock as best we could (ships don’t be sailin’ too well on land–argh!) but ended up not findin’ a single darn turkey for our feast.

“My belly’s a-rumblin’,” says Dumple.

“Aye, Matey, this be hogwash,” I says.

“Ye know what, though, Cap’n?” Dumple says with a shimmer in his one good eye. “I be thankful I can spend me Thanksgivin’ with a matey so swell as yerself.”

And that’s why I be writin’ to ye now, little adventurers. Remember that even if ye be stranded on the moon fer Thanksgivin’ without a turkey to eat, ye always have somethin’ to be grateful for.


Cap’n H. Tanny, Cap’n o’ the Seven Seas n’ the Moon in the Sky





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