A year after the publication of Too Many Tickles (Macmillan), I am deeply saddened to report the death of Penny Dann, who illustrated it.
I only knew Penny from working with her on this book, though she and I were near neighbours on the south coast. After publication, it was Penny who suggested a tour of local independent bookshops, reading the book to children and their parents (the parents came into their own when the tickle actions began), and drawing scenes and characters from the book. Penny also produced take-home colouring and activity sheets, and the events were noisy (verging on the wild!) and fun-filled. The children especially adored watching Penny draw. To be honest, I’m still struggling to accept that we won’t ever do these events again.
Penny proved to be a genuinely lovely, warm and sparky person. She was also modest about her considerable talent, brushing off my insistence that she was the perfect person to illustrate Too Many Tickles, even though I meant it — she really was. As a former illustrator of picture books myself, now writing books for others to illustrate, it isn’t always easy to accept another person will do the work I used to do. But I was delighted when Penny was chosen — she brought colour and vibrancy to the book, and made it sing. Too Many Tickles is one of my best-selling books, and Penny is a large part of the reason for that.
The last I heard from her was a few weeks ago, when Lisa Riley read Tickles on CBeebies. Penny e-mailed to say she’d seen it, and was pleased — her pictures were obviously prominent on the screen. Although I had been kept informed by our editor, I didn’t know just how ill she was at the time, and she died not long after. I’m so very sorry that we’ll never work on a book together again. Rest in peace, Penny.