Animals and insects in Guelph and up north in Temagami collide through human interaction in Nicholas Ruddock’s first children's book of poetry This Is a Tiny Fragile Snake.
We’ve all had experiences with nature whether it be a wasp caught in our hair, butterflies flying delicately in the wind or a raccoon going through the garbage.
Ruddock’s first memorable experience with an insect was a traumatic one, he said. When he was young he was rifling through some leaves and a bee stung him.
His relationship with nature has grown. While on vacation in Florida this week he was out kayaking and watched the birds go by.
The book is dedicated to his grandchildren Liam, Hazel, Milly, Nico, and Lucinda. Ruddock has spent a lot of time reading books to them so the idea of writing a children’s book came up organically.
He wrote about 20 poems and it was publisher Groundwood Books that suggested it become a book, Ruddock said. The book is for children ages three to six.
His book Last Hummingbird West of Chile was inspired by a hummingbird that got its beak caught in a window screen. The anecdote is included as a poem in the children’s book.
“It was the very first line I thought of after the hummingbird. And it just struck me when I was thinking of what am I doing now. I'm writing about a tiny, fragile snake. And it was a tiny snake. It was only four or five inches long. And it was not recognizably a garter snake. I don't know what it was for sure,” said Ruddock.
He remembered the snake in his backyard in Guelph and picked it up to put in a coffee cup so other people who didn’t like snakes didn’t have to touch it.
“I think she's done a great job of capturing the spirit of all of the animal human encounters,” he said of the book’s illustrator Ashley Barron.
Ruddock’s connection with northern Ontario started in Temagami about 95 km north of North Bay. At 16 he was hired to spend some time “on an island with an old guy who had some health issues and the family wanted to make sure he didn’t keel over and die,” Ruddock said.
One of the poems in the book refers to a real story of when Ruddock lived in the Yukon. He went for a jog and a bear was blocking the road. So he turned around and the bear didn’t go near him.
The book is set to be released for Feb. 6 and The Bookshelf is accepting pre-orders.
It’s not written from a child’s perspective, but he thinks children will enjoy reading it or having their parents read it.
“To me, fragile in the title, it really describes all our interactions now with animals, because the whole ecosystem is so threatened that there's no such thing as a non fragile interaction,” said Ruddock.
He mentioned climate change and war impacting insects and birds. “Anything that draws attention to the suffering of creatures other than man is important,” he said.