I just learned that dear, wonderful, lovely Brian Jacques died this weekend.
I am crying.
Jacques was an engaging and entertaining presenter at
conferences and at book signings. He was a raconteur who threw himself
into his storytelling, physically and vocally. His roguish charm was
accessorized with eyes that really did twinkle.
The Redwall books were part of the scenery, here in the entwood, for years. entling no. 2 adored the stories. For a time her purses for daily use were selected, not for their fashion-forward style but by the criteria: would a hardcover Redwall book fit inside? entling no.3 similarly exhausted multiple bindings of hardcover and paperback copies by reading and re-reading them. Redwall books have covered many square feet of bedroom carpet over the years.
I contacted the entlings today with the news of his passing and they both responded, "Oh no!" entling no. 2 recalled loving Jacques's characters, "the mice were ok but the hares were such fun. They were great fighters and had wonderful personalities." She mentioned that sometimes main characters died and it was always sad but also uplifting as there was a noble purpose. She loved the fantasy and the clever puzzles. She said her favorite books in the series were the first book, Redwall, Salamandastron and Mariel of Redwall. entling no. 3 remembers loving Martin the Warrior as well as the first book. She loved the "awesome" characters and that [the books] "didn't try to shield kids from how terrible war was." She added, "the beautiful puzzles were always the best part."
Jacques wrote another series based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, but those books were never as popular as his Redwall stories.
He seemed very moved by the devotion of his fans, especially boys. When I attended one of his signings at a local bookstore years ago, I was touched by the reverence with which two boys approached his table, their thick tomes held out towards him for his signature. I was positively teary watching Jacques speak with them at length. The kids glowed with the warmth of his reception.
His fans kept reading the books even as they entered college and beyond. T.A. Barron is another author who inspires that kind of loyalty, I think.
It occurs to me that I have not noticed kids checking out Jacques's book as often these days, maybe the Erin Hunter Warriors books are filling that niche. I am going to put Redwall in my Read-Aloud Bag. I think a new generation of readers needs to hear the tales of Redwall Abbey.
Brian Jacques website