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

 

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

Just Posted

Cache Creek landfill extension set for September completion

Project has been delayed due to wildfires and floods over past two years

Drag races set to return for Graffiti Days weekend

Annual event features old favourites like the smoke show, and new events like a drive-in movie

Bonaparte River fishway, Thompson steelhead among projects awarded grant funding

More than $9 million will help 170 fish and wildlife projects around B.C.

Wellness clinics provide free, drop-in health information

New service in Clinton helps patients manage their health care and stay out of hospital

Police say it’s “impressive” no arrests were made after Raptors celebrations

Toronto will play the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors next

Social media giants in hot seat as politicians consider regulations in Ottawa

Committee members will also grill representatives from Facebook, Twitter

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is raging out of control about three kilometres southwest of the town

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

Transport Canada wants to limit use of recorders to if a crew’s actions led to a crash

Most Read