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Transplanted author raising funds for children’s book

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

NORTH WEST RIVER - 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 One, 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 over $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.gofundme.com/ladymacbethafraid.

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

Barker’s paintings can be found by searching his name on http://thombarker.ca/.

Rheaume’s work can be found at www.daverheaume.com.

danette@nl.rogers.com

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