How Tracey’s book is helping a Yorkshire hospice

A pharmasist who turned to writing after her husband was diagnosed wth cancer has a second book out. Catherine Scott reports.

Tracey Barker, left, with Pamela Redfern who has illustrated Dust Puppy the Prairie Dog

MEET Dust Puppy the Prairie Dog, the latest children’s story hero from Sheffield author Tracey Barker.

Tracey, the medicines management site coordinator at St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield, met great acclaim with her first book for children, Sansa (the Not-So-Smelly Skunk).

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In the same way that her debut rhyming story was based on her own pets, Tracey’s second adventure is based on observing the trio of domesticated prairie dogs who live with her in Lodge Moor.

And keeping the whole process local, the illustrations for Dust Puppy’s story are by Sheffield artist Pamela Redfern, whose daughter Catrina is part of the reception team at St Luke’s.

“I loved the illustrations for my first book but when I mentioned that I was actually looking for a local artist to work with on the second story, Catrina mentioned straight away that her mum is an artist,” said Tracey.

“Pamela did some initial drawings of prairie dogs which were absolutely wonderful and from there we liaised together. Even though she has been an artist for many years this is her first book and I think the results are absolutely incredible.”

Pamela said: “I was thrilled and honoured when Tracey gave me this commission, which gave me a real boost.

“I have been receiving treatment for cancer so having something like this to work on really lifted me out of the doldrums and it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Dust Puppy the Prairie Dog – which uses the American animals to tell a story of family and belonging – is published by Austin Macauley and proceeds from the sale of all copies bought through St Luke’s will go directly to the hospice’s patient care.

The book is also available to buy online in paperback from Amazon.

“All this started for me when my husband Steve was diagnosed with cancer and I needed something to do in the times when we couldn’t get out and do our normal activities,” Tracey explains. “Writing became my go-to means of escapism and now I am pleased to have a second book out there and pleased too that Pamela has found providing the pictures to go with my words as therapeutic as I did.”

The two are now planning to work on another story, this time about a sloth – though on this occasion Tracey won’t have a pet to inspire her creativity.

St Luke’s offers specialist palliative care to people aged 18 and upwards throughout Sheffield who have a terminal illness. St Luke’s isn’t only for cancer patients; they also help people with other terminal illnesses, including neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease; HIV, and end-stage heart, kidney and lung conditions. Dust Puppy the Prairie Dog by Tracey Barker costs £8.39 with all proceeds going to St Luke’s.