Stuart McArthur has a secret shill.
He stands not much taller than the kitchen countertop, but he knows all the lines and without fail, laughs at the comical high points. McArthur’s audience plant is his son Shale. Besides McArthur, Shale knows the story of Humphry and the Tree better than anyone else.
So when McArthur went to Shale’s Brackendale Elementary School class for his first public reading of his first published book, Shale unknowingly helped soothe his father’s stage fright. Shale echoed the sentences, got his classmates to join in and, of course, laughed. The boy’s enthusiasm was contagious.
“He was so excited,” McArthur said.
McArthur started piecing together the tale of a friendship between a little bull and a little tree when Shale was 3 ½ years old. The book hit store shelves last February. Shale was five. His 11-month-old sister, Sessa, was born the day after McArthur’s book was published.
Growing up in Squamish, McArthur was always the creative one in his family. As a boy, the owner of Studio Landscaping made dozens of board games for them to play. He still does today.
Having children fuelled McArthur’s artistic endeavours. He’s constantly coming up with new stories to help teach his children life’s many lessons. Humphry and the Tree focuses on collaboration, the “If you help me, I’ll help you,” idea, McArthur said. It had its birth while visiting family in Kamloops, just before the kids cuddled up in bed.
On the five-hour drive back to Squamish, McArthur and his wife Amanda elaborated their vision. Once home, they wrote it down and later shared it with relatives and friends. Encouraged by their family to publish the piece, McArthur and Amanda contacted Metia MacNair, who brought Humphry and his tree friend to life with computer-generated art.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” McArthur said. “Everybody keeps asking me when the next one is coming.”
The ink has not run dry. McArthur is working on a second children’s book with a theme based on using one’s brains instead of brawn.
On Jan. 24, McArthur will give a reading of Humphry and the Tree at Little Squids at The Squamish Adventure Centre. Story time starts at 10 a.m.
Humphry and the Tree is on the shelves of Kaos Kids, the Squamish Adventure Centre and in two weeks they will also be available in Kamloops.