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Sheffield author uses pet skunks as inspiration for new children’s book

A Sheffield author is hoping for the sweet smell of success after using her unusual pets and her husband's life limiting illness as inspiration for her children’s book.

Tracey Barker, from Lodgemoor, has just published her first children’s book Sansa (the Not-So-Smelly Skunk) after being inspired to pen the tale because of her unusual pets, two skunks called Sansa and Osha.

Author Tracey Barker has just had a children's book published based on one of her own two skunks that live at home with her and her husband, Steve. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Author Tracey Barker has just had a children's book published based on one of her own two skunks that live at home with her and her husband, Steve. Pictures: Steve Ellis

The 54-year-old said she sees writing as a coping mechanism when her husband Steve, 59, is not feeling well.

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He has bowel cancer and undergoes regular chemotherapy at Weston Park Hospital.

Tracey, a medicine management sites co-ordinator for St Luke’s Hospice, said: “The book came about because one day Steve wasn’t too well and I was feeling fed up and I needed to distract myself.

Author Tracey Barker has just had a children's book published based on one of her own two skunks that live at home with her and her husband, Steve. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Author Tracey Barker has just had a children's book published based on one of her own two skunks that live at home with her and her husband, Steve. Pictures: Steve Ellis

“We have these lovely animals and I had so much material so I thought why don’t I write about one of them.

“This is a really positive and creative thing to come from the real life challenges of a life limiting illness.”

Steve was particularly impressed by the story and encouraged Tracey to send it to publishers and one, Austin Macauley Publishers, picked up the story.

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The book, which was released at the end of August, features an important message for young children about friendship, being non judgemental to others who may be different to them and including everyone in play.

Tracey now plans to take the story into schools for reading sessions – and would happily take her pets with her.

The couple got the unusual animals around six years ago after visiting friends who have an exotic pet business.

“We went round to visit them and I spent the whole evening with a skunk sat on my knee and I fell in love,” said Tracey.

“The first opportunity I got to get one we did, and got Sansa.

“After a couple of weeks we were watching her behaviour and we thought she might need another to play with. Within a month we got Osha.”

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Any schools interested in having Tracey and Sansa come in to visit should email tracey.barker3@hotmail.com