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

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

LNG Canada sponsors driver’s license training in Terrace, Kitimat

The $80,000 contribution is part of the company’s commitment to hire locally

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Missing Surrey snowshoer caught in avalanche found dead on Vancouver mountain

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

Most Read