TOMS RIVER – With the topic of bullying receiving a strong focus these days, a township firefighter – and now author – has just released his first children’s book, “Sprinkles the Fire Dog” which will provide a lesson to young readers.
The story itself however has been kicking around for quite some time and Frank Viscuso partnered with Canon and JPS Graphics to produce and print the motivational children’s book. It was printed using Canon’s varioPRINT iX-series.
The plot of the book centers around a puppy who dreams of one day becoming a fire dog and must overcome physical limitations and his own self-doubt to turn those dreams into a reality.
Viscuso spoke with The Toms River Times about his passion for raising awareness. “I actually started writing when I became the training officer for the Kearny Fire Department. I did some public relations articles and I also worked on policies and procedures but it wasn’t creative writing.
“That is kind of where it started. I write about stuff that I am passionate about. In regards to bullying, when I think about being bullied as a kid, I don’t think I was bullied any more or any less than the average person,” Viscuso said.
“Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior, mostly among school children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. I naturally had an inferiority complex and because I had that, the perceived power imbalance was always there. So, if someone talked down to me, or was rude, it wasn’t a physical type of bullying – it was a feeling like I just didn’t belong,” he added.
The writer said, “that plus being an over thinker just led to some stress and anxiety. I often tell people I was a prisoner in my own mind when I was younger. Basically, I was the character in the book, Sprinkles the Fire Dog. I had a lot of that going on in my life that I felt I was undersized, didn’t belong and didn’t fit in.”
“I wrote Sprinkles more than 20 years ago. I was just home one day and it was one of the first stories I had ever written. Since then, I’ve had 10 books published. This is my first children’s book. It was just the story that popped into my head and I wrote it. The first draft was not very good and I guess I sensed that so I didn’t really try to do anything with it,” Viscuso said.
“I ended up becoming an author in the fire service. I’ve done promotional books and several leadership and team development books and with that you meet people along your journey. I met an artist who is also a firefighter called Paul Combs. He is a tremendous artist.”
“After getting to know him and working with him on another project I said ‘would you ever be interested in illustrating a children’s book’ because he is incredibly talented. Then I shared the story with him,” he added.
The story of Sprinkles concerns “this little puppy from a big city wants to become a fire dog but his biggest challenge isn’t just his self-doubt but the corner mutts who bully him and what attracted Paul is that he said, ‘I have corner mutts in my life too. The ones that sit on the corner and bark and make you feel like you can’t ever accomplish anything,’” Viscuso said.
“He said ‘some of my corner mutts are in my own head. It is my own self doubt and limiting beliefs.’ He actually illustrated the character who was this little dog and he brought it to life. We went to our publisher who we both had gone to before and partnering with Canon and the right team can help you accomplish your dream.”
Viscuso said the partnership had worked “and will continue to work as we have more projects coming out. It worked for Paul who was very particular. When he illustrates his cartoons the quality and color pop off the page just as they do off his computer. It is an absolutely stunning book.
“For years I’ve gone to schools to speak, the schools my boys go to and given classes on fire safety especially during fire prevention week. I would always read a story to them as well. One year I went in and read them Sprinkles, six years before it was actually a book, it was just a manuscript and I said to my wife recently that I need to go back and show them the actual book and how they can work to take something creative and make it real,” he added.
One of Viscuso’s three boys came to his school during a “Dress As Your Favorite Book Character Day” event, “and my youngest surprised me by dressing as Sprinkles the Fire Dog.”