Trish Madell poses with her dog, Thunder, who was the inspiration for the hero in her new children’s book. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Madell unleashes book of Thunder



In a new children’s book, a Vizsla puppy named “Thunder” appoints himself a junior ranger at his new home, Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, where Mike, his owner, is head ranger.

Thunder spends his days befriending and looking out for other animals he encounters in the park. At home in the evenings, he plays with his toys and tries to ignore Spot, the cat who delights in tormenting him.

He describes all of this as the narrator of a sweet, charming and very funny book, “Thunder: Junior Park Ranger,” by Bar Harbor resident Trish Madell.

Her husband, Mike, was superintendent at Vicksburg National Military Park before coming to Acadia as deputy superintendent in 2015. Five years ago, while they were still in Vicksburg, the couple adopted a Vizsla puppy. They named him “Thunder.”

In the book, Thunder quickly learns the rules of the Vicksburg park and tries to help enforce them. For example, when he sees a schnauzer sniffing around the base of the 151st Ohio cavalry monument and starting to lift his leg, Thunder tells him, “Rule number one: Don’t pee on the monuments!”

Madell said she wrote the book with children around 8-years-old in mind. But readers of just about all ages will find themselves smiling and even laughing out loud.

“Everybody seems to think it’s pretty funny,” she said.

In the book, Thunder sometimes displays a surprisingly sophisticated sense of humor, as when he describes his favorite toy, a squeaky duck. When Spot, the cat, teases him about playing with a doll, he retorts indignantly: “It’s not a doll. It’s a lifelike, synthetic migratory water fowl.”

And when another character explains that something she said was a metaphor, Thunder says, “I’m from Texas. We don’t have metaphors.”

The central dramatic event in the book is the record-setting flooding of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, which was a real-life occurrence in 2011. After the flood drives many woodland creatures from surrounding areas into the park, Thunder and his friends welcome the displaced animals – except for the wild hogs, which wreak havoc – and help them find food and shelter.

“It makes you feel good to make someone else feel safe and happy,” Thunder observes.

Along with Thunder’s canine friends, the reader gets to know Seymour the skunk; Jerry, the park’s head squirrel; and a king snake named “Chrisss.” It’s not surprising that they all pull together to get through the crisis because, as Thunder says, “You can’t judge character or courage by size or appearance.”

The real-life Thunder has been sprayed by a skunk and bitten by a snake. But Chrisss, the snake in the book, is friendly and helpful because, Madell said, “I didn’t want to perpetuate negative snake stereotypes.”

“Thunder: Junior Park Ranger,” which is available on Amazon, is a delightful entertainment, a celebration of friendship and teamwork, a gentle lesson in doing the right thing, and a glimpse of a place that was the site of a crucial episode in American history.

The Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the 47-day siege of Vicksburg by Union Forces in 1863, which was a major turning point in the Civil War.

Now that the Madells have settled in at Acadia, one wonders if a follow-up dog-as-junior-ranger book is in the works.

Thunder isn’t saying.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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