THERE had been many twists and turns before a pet-loving writer and illustrator moved into a cosy studio at Perth Creative Exchange.

Children’s book author John Halverson and his wife of 37 years Mags recently retired as foster carers with Perth and Kinross Council before moving into the hub.

A Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art graduate, John draws on his own childhood struggles at school and home in Dundee to take his stories to young people locally and he also led therapeutic art classes to help folks cope with personal trauma.

His “horrendous” school years were characterised by merciless bullying and it was this experience which made John feel strongly about “putting something back” – firstly as a foster carer to “reclaim my stolen childhood”.

School did not work for John and he now feels for children who do not fit well into a mainstream setting.

He said: “Having a Norwegian name was enough to make me noticed and I wanted to be invisible.

“I taught myself numbers, words and survival skills.”

The fostering experience, a 20 year stint during which time John and Mags shared their home with around 90 children, has inspired his latest book in progress called Daddy John – the nickname his foster children used.

With the studio space all sorted at Perth Creative Exchange, John is also looking at creating children’s picture books, specifically for those in care in a bid to help them understand and cope with their situation.

Now in its sixth print run, John’s first book The Big Brown Lazy Dog first came to him as a vivid dream when he was a student but only saw the light of day some 20 years later.

He explained that taking his stories and puppets into schools is a way of combining his passion for creativity with his drive to care for young people.

And said: “Whether my books get published or not doesn’t matter.

“It’s connecting to people that’s important.

“Also, kids like fun – it’s positive and empowering for them.

“There are those that hang back and those that come right up front to engage with the puppets, and that’s all fine.”

And the story of how John finally ended up with a studio space is an intriguing one as well.

This was his fourth attempt; one place had burnt down, another one was a death trap with flooding and blackened power sockets while with the third one, police advised him to leave before the premises was relieved of thousands of pounds worth of stock and equipment.

Indeed, John added he has been “waiting for years for a space like this”.