YARMOUTH, N.S. – One evening Josh Burke’s wife wasn’t feeling well and asked him to make up a story to distract her from the pain she was feeling. As a joke, he started to tell her a story about their cat Jack.
But after giving it more serious consideration, the Yarmouth resident eventually decided Jack’s story warranted more than just a bedtime story to his wife. He decided to write a children’s book using Jack as the character and some local Yarmouth landmarks as the backdrop for a feline adventure.
“Initially when I started writing the actual story and illustrating it, I thought that I would just create this as something fun to share with my niece and nephews who know and love Jack,” he says. “I have received such positive feedback from friends, family, and co-workers that it has sort of spiralled into something bigger.”
Proceeds from sales of the book are now being donated to the Yarmouth SPCA. Burke explains why he wants to support the SPCA.
“Seven or so years ago my parents were moving houses on the South Shore where they happened to see a stray cat wandering around their house. They placed ads on the radio and in their local paper but unfortunately – or fortunately for us – nobody claimed him,” explains Burke. His parents weren’t able to keep the cat so Jack became part of Josh’s household.
“After finishing the book I thought about how there are so many stray cats, like Jack, around Yarmouth, or animals in general that need help from the SPCA. I had known all along that I wanted to give back to the community in some way, so it just seemed like a logical step to make a portion of the sales go towards the SPCA,” he says.
The book sells for $20 with $2 per book sale going to the SPCA.
Similar to the storyline in the book, in real life Jack is an indoor cat and is often visited by a cat outside the Burke’s patio door.
“I made up a nickname for (that cat), which is Phil, named after our neighbour Phil Mooney.” (Who, the Plymouth Elementary School teacher says, approves of the story, although Mooney has told him Phil looks nothing like him – he doesn’t use enough hair gel on his fur!)
Burke explains another reason for his book project.
“After a year of teaching Early Literacy Intervention, I noticed there weren’t any children’s books being used in the curriculum that involve local places . . . I thought it would be a unique idea to have Jack travel to various landmarks based in Yarmouth,” he says. Yes, Jack goes on an outdoor adventure in the book.
“The places aren’t always named the same, because of copyright issues, but they bear some visual similarities,” he says. “With this in mind I tried to make a linear travel path in the story, which would make sense if you were really to adventure from our neighbourhood down to the waterfront.”
The book is available at many locations, including Gator Byte, Hamilton’s Fine Clothing, The Red Shed and the SPCA. Burke is also making the book available online, for instance through EBay. He may also create a Facebook page with info on book sale locations.
Burke says he would like to make a sequel or a series of books, depending on how this one is received.
“I have been reading my book to students at school to make sure that it would be received well with children, and have been taking suggestions from them for new places Jack could visit in Yarmouth for a sequel,” he says. “Children can be quite creative.”