Trans­planted au­thor rais­ing funds for chil­dren’s book

Thom Barker re­cently moved to the area and has writ­ten a book about his New­found­land dog

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - EDITORIAL - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY

A for­mer news­pa­per re­porter has writ­ten a chil­dren’s book about his beloved New­found­land dog and is well on his way to get­ting the book pub­lished thanks to an on­line fundrais­ing cam­paign.

Thom Barker re­cently moved from York­ton, Saskatchewan to North West River, Labrador. His goal is to set­tle in Postville once ren­o­va­tions to his home there are com­pleted. (His wife Lor­raine, who is from the Deer Lake area, has ac­cepted the job of nurse prac­ti­tioner in Postville.)

As the ti­tle sug­gests, “Lady Mac­Beth was Afraid of the Stairs,” is about a dog that’s afraid of just about ev­ery­thing, Barker said. The book is based on his ex­pe­ri­ences with his own big Newf – the first dog he’s ever owned.

Barker said he had no idea what an amaz­ing re­la­tion­ship a hu­man be­ing can have with an animal un­til he got his dog.

“A lot of times they stink, New­found­land dogs slob­ber ev­ery­where, they shed like crazy, rain or shine they have to go out for walks. Those are all the rea­sons why I never wanted to have a dog. But, now that I have her, all of that goes out the win­dow... she’s a won­der­ful be­ing,” Barker said dur­ing a phone in­ter­view.

Barker soon re­al­ized that, while his dog is in­deed man’s best friend, his par­tic­u­lar furry friend had many pho­bias.

“I’d take her out walk­ing in the coun­try and she’d be freaked out by some­thing. I’d go over and in­ves­ti­gate and it would be an old tire or a tin can.”

Those walks in the coun­try helped form the story in Barker’s mind. Barker is confident chil­dren will be able to re­late to the dog’s fears.

With two grand­chil­dren of his own, Barker en­joys sit­ting down with a book and read­ing to­gether rather than do­ing so with a lap­top or tablet.

The charm­ing art­work in the book (il­lus­trated by award win­ning Toronto-based artist Dave Rheaume) will also help keep young minds at­ten­tive and want­ing to hear more.

When con­tacted about the project Rheaume said he first met Barker in Grade 1, some 47 years ago, when the teacher asked for a vol­un­teer to show the “new kid” around the school.

“I put my hand up and the rest is his­tory,” Rheaume said via e-mail.

The two were best friends through­out ele­men­tary and high school, he said.

“We al­ways worked on cre­ative en­deav­ors...draw­ing comics in ele­men­tary school and then mak­ing films in high school.”

While they went their sep­a­rate ways as adults, Rheaume said they still stayed in touch.

Rheaume worked in film and tele­vi­sion in Toronto for about 30 years. He took up paint­ing about a dozen years ago, which is now his ca­reer fo­cus. When Barker men­tioned to Rheaume that he’d writ­ten a chil­dren’s book and asked if he’d be in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing the il­lus­tra­tions, Rheaume said he “jumped at the chance for two rea­sons.”

“It’s a great and dif­fer­ent cre­ative ex­er­cise for me that ac­tu­ally al­lows me to draw upon some of the nar­ra­tive skills I picked up work­ing in tele­vi­sion. I thought the book it­self was ex­cel­lent, with a mes­sage that even the stronger be­ings (a New­found­land dog) can have and over­come pho­bias. And also it was a chance to work closely with my child­hood friend in a way that harkened back to our early col­lab­o­ra­tions.”

In terms of com­ing up with a style for the book, Rheaume said, he felt Lady Mac­Beth needed to be some­thing of a uni­ver­sal New­found­land dog.

“There’s quite a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent sizes, shag­gi­ness... within the breed, so I wanted any Newf owner who reads the book to rec­og­nize some­thing of their own dog in LM. I also wanted the set­tings, al­though con­tem­po­rary, to have some­thing of a ‘retro’ feel, in the fur­nish­ings, the toys LM plays with.”

Rheaume’s hope is that when grand­par­ents are read­ing the book to their grand­kids, they’ll see some­thing of their child­hood sur­round­ings in the pic­tures, too.

Barker is also a gifted artist. Many of his pieces are in­spired by the New­found­land and Labrador land­scape.

“This sum­mer I’ve had a com­bi­na­tion of the time and this in­spi­ra­tional ge­og­ra­phy that I see ev­ery­where around me. So I sat down and se­ri­ously started paint­ing again,” he said.

Barker es­tab­lished a GoFundMe page to raise money to pub­lish the book. He has al­ready raised more than $4,000 of his $6,500 goal.

“I was told by ev­ery­body that it was im­pos­si­ble to do a cre­ative project through crowd sourc­ing. But I de­cided that self-pub­lish­ing has a lot of ad­van­tages over seek­ing a tra­di­tional pub­lisher,” he said.

Barker’s GoFundMe page can be found https://www.­dy­mac­bethafraid.

For more on Barker’s book visit Lady Mac­Beth the Newf on Face­book.

Barker’s paint­ings can be found by search­ing his name on www.fin­eartamer­

Rheaume’s work can be found at www.dav­er­


Photo of Thom Barker and the real Lady Mac­Beth on the beach in North West River.


Il­lus­tra­tions from Barker’s book.

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