Once, about ten years ago, in a boy named Andy’s room . . .
Lightning flashed through the window and thunder rumbled. Jessie, a cowgirl toy, and her horse, Bullseye, looked out into the dark night as the storm raged.
“Whoa!” exclaimed Jessie. “It’s raining cats and dogs out there! I hope they make it back all right. . . .”
The sound of quick footsteps coming toward the bedroom made the toys gasp.
“Heads up!” said a pink piggy bank named Hamm. “Andy’s coming!”
The toys collapsed into toy mode as Andy, energetic and eight years old, burst into the room, soaking wet and smiling. He dropped an armful of wet toys onto his bed and ran down to dinner.
As soon as Andy left, Sheriff Woody snapped out of toy mode, jumped down from the bed, and darted to the windowsill. He began scanning the yard.
“Do you see him?” asked Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger action figure, as he climbed up to the sill.
“No,” said Woody.
“Well, he’s done for,” said Slinky Dog, his tail and coils drooping.
“He’ll be lost!” said Rex the dinosaur, his voice quaking with anxiety. “Forever!”
Woody jumped to the floor and began giving orders. “Jessie. Buzz. Slink. Molly’s room. The rest of you, stay put.”
Woody headed to the open door and down the hall. He peeked into Molly’s bedroom and smiled when he saw Bo, a Little Bo Peep porcelain doll figurine, who stood on her lamp base next to her sheep. Bo belonged to Andy’s little sister, Molly, but she was close friends with Woody and the rest of the toys in Andy’s room. The cutouts in Bo’s lamp’s rotating shade created gentle points of light, like twinkling stars, all over the room.
Woody climbed up the nightstand toward Bo. She knew something was up and held out her staff to help him.
“Situation?” she asked.
“Lost toy,” said Woody. “Side yard.”
“Billy. Goat. Gruff,” commanded Bo. “Raise the blinds.”
Without a second thought, the three sheep bit down on the cord to the blinds and leaped off the nightstand, raising the blinds as they dropped to the floor.
Woody, Bo, Jessie, and Buzz gaped out the window as the rain slapped against it, making it difficult to see. Finally, they spotted him. RC, a remote-control car, was stuck in the muddy water rushing toward the storm drain at the end of the driveway. He spun his wheels as he tried to get out, but he only sank deeper and deeper.
Bo and Woody looked at each other for a brief moment as they plotted their next move. The friends had a way of communicating without words. They both turned to the room and announced, “Operation Pull Toy!”
Working together, the toys launched Jessie into the air to unlock the window. Then Bo wedged her staff under the bottom of the window, forcing it open.
Woody and Bo leaned over the ledge, gazing down at the stranded car. Bo turned to Woody and straightened his hat. The cowboy took a deep breath, smiled, and hopped on top of Slinky. Buzz and Jessie held Slinky’s back end while Woody took a running leap out the window with the toy’s front end.
In the pouring rain, Woody rappelled down the side of the house to the ground. He spotted RC struggling in the storm drain.
The little vehicle spun his wheels in the mud, trying to get closer to Woody, but the rushing water kept pulling him away. The cowboy stretched Slinky as far as he could go, but they weren’t able to reach the car.
“I ain’t got any more slink!” cried Slinky.
Bo watched from the window as Woody held one of Slinky’s paws, stretching a bit farther, but it still wasn’t enough. Woody hooked the plastic loop of his pull string over Slinky’s paw, and that wasn’t enough, either.
He looked back to see Bo at the window, holding her staff with an entire barrel’s worth of monkeys linked together. She had added them to Slinky’s line, giving Woody the boost he needed. With a big lunge forward, he grabbed RC!
Woody gave the others the signal to pull, but just as he and RC sprang up, a car drove into Andy’s driveway. The toys were quick, but not quick enough. Buzz and the gang hauled the exhausted toy car into the bedroom, and—WHAP!
The window slammed down on Slinky before he and Woody could make it inside.
Woody scrambled up to the ledge and peeked through the window. In the bedroom, Molly and Andy’s mom was talking with the man from the car.
“I’m so glad to see this old lamp go to a good home,” she said to him.
He watched in horror as Molly and Andy’s mom placed Bo, her lamp, and her sheep into a cardboard box and handed it to the man. After thanking her, he turned and asked,
“Molly, are you sure it’s all right?” “Yeah, I don’t want it anymore,” Molly said without hesitation.
The people walked out, and the toys rushed to the window, working together to pull the rest of Slinky up.
“Where’s Woody?” asked Buzz, surprised to see his friend wasn’t there.
Out in the driveway, the man put the cardboard box down behind his car as he searched his pockets for his keys. Unable to find them, he groaned and jogged back to the house.
As soon as he left, the box was pulled underneath the car. Its flaps were opened, and when a bolt of lightning flashed, Woody peered into the box and saw Bo comforting her sheep.
“Quick!” Woody said. “We’ll sneak into the hedges before he’s back—”
“Woody, it’s okay . . . ,” said Bo, her voice calm and steady.
“Wha—? No! No, no. You can’t go. What’s best for Andy is that you—”
“Woody. I’m not Andy’s toy,” said Bo. Woody stared for a moment, but he knew she was right.
“It’s time for the next kid,” Bo continued. They heard the front door open and knew they didn’t have much time. “You know, kids lose their toys every day. Sometimes they get left in the yard . . . or put in the wrong box.” She smiled as she waited for Woody’s reply. She was hoping he would join her.
“And that box gets taken away . . . ,” said Woody, considering her idea, grasping the edges of the cardboard box.
But the sound of Andy’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Mom, where’s Woody?” he asked, concerned. Woody and Bo saw Andy run out the front door.
“I can’t find Woody!”
Woody sagged and let go of the box. He could never leave Andy, knowing how much his kid needed him. Bo was sad, but she understood why Woody had to stay. She reached out and straightened his hat one last time. After wiping a raindrop from his cheek, she smiled and settled back in beside her sheep.
Seconds later, the man returned and the car backed out of the driveway, revealing Woody on the ground, in toy mode. Woody stared at the car’s lights, watching them shrink until they disappeared into the stormy night.
Andy sighed with relief when he saw Woody in the rainy driveway. “There you are!” he said, scooping him up. “Mom, I found him!” Andy’s mom chuckled as she ushered him inside and closed the door.
Copyright © 2019 by Suzanne Francis; illustrated by the Disney Storybook Art Team. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.