WINSTED — A Maltese pooch that appeared in numerous productions with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, is the inspiration for author Joanna Lee Doster’s latest books, “Tails of Jaxx.”
Long Island native Doster, who has resided in Winsted for three years, lived in Manhattan with her husband, Jeffrey, before relocating to Connecticut in 2015. Doster’s career includes marketing and advertising, television production and interior design. During those years working in New York City, Doster was a devoted opera fan and attended performances at the Met.
Jaxx, whose full name was Jumping Jack Flash, was a popular animal act for the Met, and appeared in a number of Met productions including Doster’s favorite opera, Robert Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier.”
In the early 2000s, “We knew the agent who brings all the animals in (for) Met productions, and when Jack was about 6 years old, she asked me if he’d like to be in an opera,” Doster said. “He was great. He learned so quickly, and he would do eight to 10 performances for each opera. In fact, when the show went on hiatus, Jack went into a depression because he loved the work. He must have been an opera actor in his former life.
“For us, it was a great chance to meet the singers and see the operas at the Met,” Doster said. “It was wonderful for all of us.”
After Jack’s death in 2018, Doster decided to try her hand at writing children’s books, and wrote “Tails of Jaxx at the Metropolitan Opera,” in which Jaxx is caught in a blizzard near Central Park and is found by people from the Met. “He’s taken in by them, and he meets other humans and animals,” Doster said. “He helps people, and foils a bad janitor who is stealing from the opera. It’s a mystery story, with a happy ending when he’s reunited with his family.
“There are messages there, how life doesn’t always turn out the way you want it, and how you can make new friends,” Doster said. “My mission is to teach children about culture, opera, classical music, perfoming on stage, what an opera is. I don’t think children are getting enough of that.”
Her second book, published late last year, was “Tails of Jaxx in Barkhamsted,” and follows the little Maltese on an adventure foiling a dog-napping gang and meeting other pets and wild animals.
Doster is hoping to have her first “Tails of Jaxx” story made into an animated film. “But so far, no luck,” she said. “But I”m still going to pursue it. I think it would be wonderful for children.”
For now, the “Tails of Jaxx” books are available at the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Opera’s gift shop, and online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. She’s also been asked to donate books to local schools. “The schools in Barkhamsted are thrilled about the book,” she said.
Living in Winsted has been a pleasure for the Dosters. “The people are lovely here,” she said. “We’ve been here three years, and we just love it. We have two Lowchen puppies now, Remy Martin and Valentino, and we’re very happy here.”
She is working on a third Jaxx book, as well as an adult murder mystery. “I’ve had many careers, and writing is a lot of fun, but it’s not as easy to write children’s books as you might think,” she said.
Doster has a degree in special education, and previously taught deaf and learning impaired children in New York. She went on to work for A&E, PBS and the Learning Channel. She is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design, and ran antique stores in Manhattan after obtaining her appraiser’s certificate. Her first book, “Celebrity Bedroom Retreats,” was published in 2002 and explored the bedroom decor of luminaries including Gianni Versace, Cher and Joan Rivers. She followed that with “Maximum Speed,” a thriller mystery published in 2011.
The first and second Jaxx books were published last year. “The third one is a secret — people will have to wait and see what Jaxx is up to next,” she said.
“Tails of Jaxx” books can be ordered online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.