They asked, “Why snails?”
“They are so ugly!” they exclaimed.
Indeed, snails and their ‘slugy’ cousins have quite a reputation and are the nemesis of gardeners everywhere. There are a multitude of anti-gastropod strategies. A few summers ago I carefully transplanted a beautiful rhubarb plant into my garden. Rhubarb is gold in my kitchen and my own plant in the garden was a priceless gift. Not soon after it settled into the soil, I found the rhubarb leaves nibbled almost to the stem! Panic set in. I called my aunt, the master gardener, in hopes of finding a solution that would not require killing my small neighbors. They deserve to eat too after all. Per her suggestion, I began a daily regiment of coffee grounds and eggshells around the base of the plant. Thankfully, after a few weeks of this treatment and several mornings spent ‘transporting’ my slimy friends, my rhubarb finally won. Throughout this process, I learned a good deal about my little ravenous neighbors. For instance, the little ones living in my garden were actually European slugs, an invasive species, not the native forest slugs that loved chowing down on decomposing plants, not rhubarb! I wonder what other snail and slug friendly strategies work for frustrated gardeners?
Striving to live peacefully with wildlife was always important to me. So when I am asked, “Why snails?” the answer is simple. When I was searching for a story it was only natural that I embraced this often-misunderstood creature that had a story to share if we only stopped to listen. Working with Serena the snail, I not only increased my empathy towards snails but I hoped that readers might also deepen their imagination about these mysterious creatures. Taking time to practice empathy is important, as research supports that empathy is a motivator of compassionate action. Put simply, if we try to imagine the experience and needs of another we are much more likely to take action to help them. Empathy an emotional state that relies on our ability to perceive, understand and care about the experiences or perspectives of another person or animal. Like all learning, building empathy takes time and must be practiced. One way to increase our empathy is through the telling of stories. Researchers have found that storytelling creates empathic responses as people identify with the characters and a deeper connection is formed. This holds true for snails and humans. If you are interested in reading more about empathy or the best research based practices to develop it, I would love to share more information with you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author & Illustrator
Ashley M. Young