On November 7 2020 an artist from Marsden, Marleen Starksfield-Lowe, died in Kirkwood Hospice aged just 40, leaving behind a seven-year-old daughter, Polly.

Now a new book, The Garden Stories, containing her last work has been published posthumously by author Kate Griffin, from Holme, who first identified Marleen’s pictures as the perfect addition to her stories many years ago.

The three stories, originally written for adults and older children because of the emotionally demanding content, are based on three gardens that the main character, nine-year old Sky, discovers.

Sky is lost and lonely. Her mother, Kirstie, lurching between bouts of depression and wild enthusiasm for the future, is struggling to cope after Sky’s father left them.

They move house time and again as Kirstie fixates on ‘fresh starts.’ But Sky feels like the permanent outsider – she cannot fit into the boxes that she feels others want her to occupy.

She learns, through the gardens, that the only thing that really matters is to live in the present. This was a message that very much echoed Marleen’s attitude to life.

Kate said: “Marleen was a wonderful, vibrant, talented artist, a devoted and caring friend and family member who left an amazing legacy through her artwork.

“She also understood the characters in my book so well.  She managed to depict Sky’s knobbly knees and spectacles perfectly alongside the alternative worlds Sky finds in her imagination.

“Her representations are so true to what I envisioned that I can’t imagine the story without these pictures.”

In June 2019 Marleen was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. After a temporary remission it returned in the summer of 2020. Although she was not at all well she completed the pictures and designed the title pages.

Kate hopes that The Garden Stories becomes a lasting testimonial of the imagination of Marleen who found a fitting project to contribute her final work to. The book is available from Read Bookshop in Holmfirth and on Amazon.