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

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)

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

Just Posted

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Caden Tart and Luke Geisbrecht host Scratch the Scripture. Photo: Submitted
Two Castlegar teens launch faith podcast

Scratch the Scripture aims to answer teen’s questions about God

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

Cliffe Churches helped create the Robson Fire Department. Photo: Submitted
Robson Fire Department honours Cliffe Churches

Cliffe Churches helped create the Robson Fire Department

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read