Lady MacBeth enjoys an east-coast summer. (Contributed photo)

Former B.C. crime reporter pens debut children’s book

Thom Barker channels his giant dog’s phobias into theme exploring critical thinking

A good reporter follows a solid lead and always protects their source. A good dog, by contrast, follows loyally but will always break away to protect their pack. So when that dog is a giant, intimidating Newfoundland breed afraid of everything from dark stairwells to paper bags, a good reporter will wonder why. When that reporter is someone like Thom Barker it’s not just enough to find the answers, but follow the peculiar story to the end — in this case to the writing of his debut children’s book exploring the theme of unfounded fears and critical-thinking.

Now in its second release, Lady MacBeth afraid of the stairs is based on Barker’s real life dog and her odd-ball journey of conquering this fear when one day she is given a small but significant reason to doubt her own thinking.

“I really hope more than anything children are entertained by it,” Barker says. “Of course, confronting fears is a standard children’s book theme, so if it is entertaining, perhaps in a small way it will help children develop the skepticism they need to become critically-thinking adults.

Regular readers may remember Barker from his days about 13 years ago at the Interior News in Smithers. His stories were regularly shared with Black Press newspapers across B.C. He was in the Houston RCMP detachment less than an hour after the fatal, in-custody shooting of Ian Bush, and subsequently won a national award of excellence for his reporting on the inquiry. A Smithers crime series, on what was then B.C.’s “crime capital”, won him a dozen more accolades from journalism institutions in both Canada and the United States. In other words, he’s not known for fluff pieces. This foray into children’s books is a surprising turn for Barker, now a grandfather of two, until the adult readers see the similarities of Lady MacBeth’s fears, and the culture of fear underlying many of today’s news headlines.

READ MORE: Award-winning author and speaker presents to child service workers

“Critical thinking is important for everybody,” Barker says. “With all of the misinformation and disinformation going around on the Internet, particularly social media, you have to be able to discern what’s real and what’s not. Be able to question whatever is put before you, including your own gut instincts and fears.”

To be fair, Lady MacBeth is not afraid of all stairs, just these stairs in the Labrador home Barker shares with his wife Lorraine (whom he met in Smithers). For safety concerns they had blocked off the staircase when Lady was a pup, and Barker suspects her curiosity of what lurked beyond the barricade mutated into fear as she matured. Why she’s afraid of everything else is a mystery (a tennis racket, a bicycle, a tin can) but a good motivator for Barker to document Lady’s adventures in the world of fiction.

Thom Barker

“I never wanted to be a children’s author, but the story kept coming to me through the rhythm of walking with Lady. She’d always stop to bark at a tire, or whatever, and the theme was fortuitous. Fear is something that everybody deals with at all points in their life, and it’s certainly something that resonates with kids.”

To illustrate this with humour and a light step, Barker turned to long-time friend Dave Rheaume, with whom he shared a passion as a child for co-creating comic books and homemade films. Rheaume brings what Barker calls a “historical-retro feel” to the book. An emerging theme with reader reviews indicate children find the paintings whimsical while parents and grandparents find them nostalgic.

“What I loved about the book is the idea that you have this large, powerful being that still has these phobias,” Rheaume says. “To see that such a a strong powerful beast, that’s basically the same size as a human, can still have the same sort of hangups and phobias and fears that all of us have makes her very relatable.”

READ MORE: UBC study focuses on reducing the fear of being too happy

Provided the second release of the self-published book goes well, Barker and Rheaume are already planning a series they’ll pitch to traditional publishers next year. The series will begin with titles like Lady MacBeth takes a bath, Lady MacBeth finds a dinosaur bone and Lady MacBeth goes to the big city.

Lady MacBeth afraid of the stairs is available on Amazon.ca.


 


quinn@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Lady MacBeth in Kaipokok, Newfoundland And Labrador. (Contributed photo)

Just Posted

Port Alberni café, pair of teens rally support for Australia bush fire relief

Boomerangs Café plans three-day fundraiser; teens prepare to help in wildlife recovery

Agricultural Land Commission approves cannabis facility in Beaver Creek

Proposed facility outside Port Alberni had been caught up in ALR red tape

Alberni writer and poet to read at Words on Fire

Chelsea Comeau has her own freelance writing and editing business

North Island College hosting nursing info session

Info sessions will take place Monday, Jan. 27 at Port Alberni and Campbell River campuses

Photographer captures Port Alberni personalities in black and white portraits

Meet John Douglas, Courtney Naesgaard in double exhibit Jan. 18 at Rollin Art Centre

Prince Harry reunites with Meghan and Archie in Victoria

Buckingham Palace said Tuesday it would not comment on private matters

Meng extradition case back in court for second day on double criminality test

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with an Iran-based subsidiary

Skier dies at Fernie Alpine Resort

It’s the second person to die in a tree well at a ski resort in B.C. in the past week.

Put away the shovels, week of rain ahead for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada calling for wet weather until Sunday

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Warm ocean ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

VIDEO: B.C. mom shares ‘insane’ experience of viral dinosaur video

Tabitha Cooper filmed her costumed sons meeting their grandma at the Victoria International Airport

Most Read