Jill Tomlinson never intended to be a writer. She trained as an opera singer, and then decided to have a family whilst her voice matured. But illness intervened, and she had to find another outlet for her energies. She started on a journalism course, and by the third lesson decided she wanted to write for children. So she did!
It did not come easily. Her first story, The Bus who went to Church, was rejected by sixteen publishers before it was accepted for a picture book. Several other picture books followed until she felt a need to stretch herself further. She wrote five short stories about a hen wanting to visit an aunt and her chicks, and Methuen thought that if she wrote another five stories on the same theme the book would fit well into their new 'Read Aloud' series. After many fierce arguments between Jill and her editor (recounted with relish and indignation to her bewildered family) the book we now know as The Hen Who Wouldn't Give Up, came out, soon to be followed by The Cat Who Wanted to Go Home.
The next manuscript was produced in increasing physical difficulties, and had just been accepted when the cause of the difficulties was identified - multiple sclerosis. The book was The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark. Thereafter every book was a battle. Writing became impossible. All her research - and each book about a young animal was meticulously researched - was done by the family in response to her persistent and often unanswerable questions. Not that you could guess all this from the finished product, where her sympathy and sense of humour overrides everything. Jill used to claim that she was unique in being an author who could neither read or write.
So long as she could speak clearly, Jill loved to read her stories to the children of friends and often, in her wheelchair, to classes in local schools. Her 'eek' when reading the Owl was something to be remembered! She said that stories about young animals could go straight to the emotional needs of young children, bypassing all barriers of class or colour.
Jill died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in hospital where she had gone for respite care whilst her husband was away from home. She was 45. But anyone who has read her books knows what she was like - bubbly and caring and irrepressible.