Fort George visit inspires children’s book series

It’s a pirate’s life for St. Catharines native Edward Penner.

Twenty years ago, Penner took his family on a trip to Fort George National Historic Site in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which inspired him to write a series of children’s books called “The Adventures of Tom and Andy: The Legend of Black-Eyed Barth.

Her then 6 year old son loved the history and was thrilled to see the former war site.

“He was just captivated by the place,” Penner said. “I was learning to write (books) at the time, and he was looking for some new material to read. So I thought, well, why not take some of the historical stuff that I see all around me and putting them in a story, in a fictional story?And that means repackaging them, but drawing on the historical elements that I see and then putting them in a fantastic pirate tale.

Penner said he was particularly inspired by the cannons at Fort George, the live musket demonstration and the beautiful Lake Ontario setting.

While “The Adventures of Tom and Andy: The Legend of Dark-Eyed Bart” was born because of his son, that wasn’t Penner’s only goal.

“A bunch of research that I’ve done says that…we have a hard time getting boys to read and they don’t like it and it goes further, to analyze that problem and say, well, boys like certain things and they’re not presented with that, so they’re pretty reluctant readers,” he said.

Through the research he had done, Penner was motivated to create a series that boys aged 6 to 9 would enjoy reading.

Penner said he always wanted to be a writer, but the dream was put on hold until he could retire.

He spent most of his youth bouncing around Niagara. Although he is originally from St. Catharines and bought his first home there, he has also lived or worked in Lincoln, Welland and Grimsby.

“The Adventures of Tom and Andy: The Legend of Dark-Eyed Bart” is a five-part series available from most major booksellers, including Amazon and Indigo.

The first book is already out and subsequent editions will be released over the next few months.

“It’s fun to bring exciting stories to life and watch your readers enjoy them,” Penner said. “It makes the whole process interesting.”

Colin L. Johnson