If I had to pick my own favorite from the six Poppy books, I suppose it must be Ereth’s Birthday. The Poppy stories, which are, after all, about animals, have more autobiographical content than most of my other books. (Catch You Later, Traitor, is the most autobiographical.) In Ereth’s Birthday, however, the porcupine Ereth, takes on the role of step-father—albeit reluctantly.
At the behest of transparency, I too am a step-father. My experience has been that being a step-father was much harder than being a biological parent. There is nothing given. Everything is earned, or lost. The love you gain, is the love you earn. Indeed, there are unique rewards to being a successful step parent. A lot good. Some not so good.
Young fox are called kits. But the collective noun for fox is “leash,” which is to say, one refers to a “leash of fox.” I find this odd because if you have ever seen kits, they are absolutely not on a leash. They are playful, rambunctious, and extremely charming. Those rare times I have seen kits in the wild, they have always reminded me of human kids at joyful play-hence the book.
In this story, these are the kinds that curmudgeonly Ereth undertakes to parent.
The kits in the book are, each in their way, based on my step-kids, though from this vantage point I can’t say who is whom. It has been further suggested that Ereth is a self-portrait. Maybe.
The fun in the book is that the kits are all charming energy and emotion, even as Ereth tries to corral them into life-saving measures. Not easy for him, but, I think, very funny for the reader.
Some books are hard to write. Others, if not exactly easy, are stress free. A few books are a joy to write. Ereth’s Birthday was one of those.
As you might guess, when I publish my books I always give copies to all my kids—all five of them. That said, the one book I never did distribute was Ereth’s Birthday. After all, it’s my vision—the step-father—of being a parent. I was never quite sure how my kids would receive it.
That’s the Ereth in me.