Wasp flies into Hay River man's head, gives him idea for children's book

For one man in Hay River, a recent encounter with a wasp wasn't a nuisance, it was an inspiration.

Tom Lakusta is a forester with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, so his work environment is filled with all sorts of creatures. A wasp bumping into his head? Not such a big deal for Lakusta. 

"But as a kid, that would scare me," he said. "I thought, 'A kid doesn't need to be scared of stuff like this.'" 

Lakusta let the idea simmer in his head for a few months, thinking about the larger lesson in his observation. He realized the story isn't the wasp — it's the fear.

"I think what a kid can get out of it is to build some personal resilience and some control of themselves," he said.

"You can't control what's around you in your environment, but you can control if you are afraid of it." 

Emily Blake/CBC

So Lakusta started storyboarding a children's book. It would be called A Bee Bumped into my Head. His next challenge would be finding somebody to bring his words to life.

"I'm not an artist, so I looked for an illustrator," he said.

Two illustrators he knew of weren't available, so he canvassed his son's girlfriend — who happens to be a kindergarten teacher — for ideas. She gave him some sage advice: "Kids like what kids draw." 

So Lakusta changed course. "I auditioned a couple illustrators after making a storyboard of the book," he said. "And Corinne became the illustrator." 

Corrine Smith is a Grade 7 student at Princess Alexandra school in Hay River. She said getting this opportunity is "pretty cool" because she never thought she'd be an illustrator. And, she admires the book's message.

"I think it has a good lesson that you don't have to be scared of everything, because everything is just living its own life," she said.

Smith said she isn't sure if she'll illustrate more children's books in the future. She says maybe if she dabbles in publishing again, it'll be as an author. 

"Maybe I'll do that one day, and illustrate my book too," she said.

A Bee Bumped into my Head is available at libraries across the N.W.T., as well as the Hay River visitors centre, among a handful of other retailers. Lakusta said he's also sent the book to school boards across the territory.