The students and staff at Kool’s School are back, and with some bright, sharp illustrations too.
Bruce Foster, an elementary school principal with 40 years of experience in teaching and as a principal or vice-principal, including 10 years at Pleasant Corners Public School, has published his third book for children, MS Readathon Rocks—Kool’s School—Lessons Learned.
The book is also the publication debut for illustrator Joshua Stewart of St-Eugène. He’s 19 and in his second year of a four-year fine arts degree, majoring in painting and drawing at Concordia University in Montréal. He commutes to class in the city every day. Stewart also attended Pleasant Corners Public School and graduated from Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute.
Stewart has been drawing pretty much since he could hold a pencil, and his talent evolved into what is becoming a career. “It became something I did routinely and then something I could go further with,” he said.
Stewart and Foster were set up at the Vankleek Hill Craft Show on November 24, signing and selling books. Lorna Stewart, Joshua’s grandmother, and his mother, Leanne stopped by.
“It’s fabulous, we’re so proud of him, he’s the first artist in the family,” said Lorna.
Leanne said her son was drawing all the time when he was younger.
“We couldn’t even get him to bed,” she recalled.
Joshua said his family and friends have been a big inspiration for him and noted that MS Readathon Rocks—Kool’s School—Lessons Learned is his first commissioned, marketable work. “This is my first, real experience in my illustration career,” he said.
In 2017, Joshua received a Young Artist Scholarship from ARTour Prescott-Russell.
The materials—or media in proper art-speak that Joshua uses, are primarily alcohol-based markers and micron pens. He also works with charcoal, oil paints, and sometimes acrylic paints, but said he prefers ink.
Joshua said he’s already working on the illustrations for Bruce Foster’s next book.
“As long as he has ideas, I’m his man,” he said.
Foster started writing down notes in 2010, based on his experiences as a principal. He’s served at 33 different schools in Eastern Ontario on either a permanent or short-term basis. He changes the names, of course, to protect the people involved. His books are written like the usual fiction children’s books, but they are about things that really happened.
“It’s a privileged position, being a principal, you see lots of things,” Foster said.
Foster tries to use the books as teachable experiences for young readers too. MS Readathon Rocks—Kool’s School—Lessons Learned is about a school raising money for multiple sclerosis (MS) and explains what the disease is and why it’s important to help those who have it.
Foster’s two previous two books are Wild Times at Kool’s School—Lessons Learned, and Zena’s Sixth Birthday—Lessons Learned. They were illustrated by Jessica Fleury.
“Mr. Kool” is a name Foster earned at one of the schools he was serving at. He was in the schoolyard at recess one day and a grade three student who did not know his name called him “Mr. Whatever.” Another student said, “It is Mr. Kool with a K because you are kind to kids.”
Foster is also a strong promoter of Kids Help Phone, the charitable organization that provides free telephone and online counselling to young people in distress. A portion of the sales from the books goes to Kids Help Phone.
“It saves lives,” said Foster.
Every Kool’s School book has an English and French version, so they can be enjoyed by children in either language. The target age group is three to 12.
Bruce Foster’s books are not sold in stores, but they are available online at: mrkool.ca