When Mrs Hardcastle goes to sleep, something magic always seems to happen to Tilly Mint. Tilly never says very much about it to Mrs Hardcastle, and Mrs Hardcastle never says very much about it to Tilly. It just happens, and that’s that. It’s magic.
When I was a little girl, my mum and dad used to call me Tilly Mint. It wasn’t my real name, of course. We lived in a part of Liverpool called Knotty Ash, and it seemed that all the other little girls in the street were called Tilly Mint, too. We moved to the Wirral when I was four, and I still met Tilly Mints from time to time. I still do, wherever I go, but they always come from Liverpool.
Years after I left the area, a Radio Sheffield producer called Dave Sheasby asked me to write some stories for young children, and I knew I wanted to write about a little girl called Tilly Mint. I used to tell my children stories about an old lady called Mrs Hardcastle, and I decided to put her in the Tilly Mint stories I was writing. It was only then that I discovered something wonderful about Mrs Hardcastle. She could make magic happen!
When I was writing the book I talked to children at Dobcroft School in Sheffield about magic, and about the sort of things they would love to be able to do if only they knew someone like Mrs Hardcastle. Some of their wishes went into my stories. The stories were broadcast many times on Radio Sheffield, and then published as my fourth book, Tilly Mint Tales.
Then came Tilly Mint and the Dodo. Ron Rose, who ran a theatre company called DAC, asked me to write a play about Tilly Mint to take around schools. I wrote a musical about Tilly Mint and Captain Cloud and the last dodo in the world, which Tilly tries to save from extinction. Tilly Mint and the Dodo was published as my seventh book. It all seems a very long time ago now. Now both Tilly Mint Tales and Tilly Mint and the Dodo are published together in this book, with Tony Ross’s wonderful, funny illustrations. I wonder if any little girls called Tilly Mint will read it!
Tilly Mint Tales was first published by Methuen in 1984 with illustrations by Thelma Lambert, and Tilly Mint and the Dodo was published by Methuen in 1988 with illustrations by Janna Doherty (my daughter).