Booklovers around the world received a sad piece of news today: Brian Jacques, creator of the Redwall series, passed away on Saturday, February 5. He died after a heart attack at age 71.
I am personally saddened by Jacques' death because he was a favorite childhood author of mine. I started with Martin the Warrior in the fourth grade and read at least 10 more books in the series. The Redwall books—surrounding the animals who live at Redwall Abbey—were some of the first fantasy books I ever read, and also the first "boy" books I embraced.
After my elementary school launched the Accelerated Reader program—in which you take comprehension tests and accumulate points after reading books—the Redwall series became very popular at my school library, especially with a group of boys; they were thick and worth more points than just about anything else. (This was before Harry Potter, Twilight and the popularity of doorstoppers aimed at tweens.)
I was not initially interested in novels about vermin and war, but I finally picked up the books because I wanted to be competitive in AR. I ended up adoring the books and even joined the Brian Jacques fan club by mail.
In fact, I believe the Redwall books inspired my lifelong willingness to try books in different genres—you never know what you'll like!
Jacques wrote more than 30 books, including several projects outside of Redwall. In 2004, BookPage reviewer Dean Schneider described horror collection The Ribbajack as "creepy and great for reading aloud." Jacques also wrote picture books; his story The Tale of Urso Brunov is about the adventures of a tribe of bears in a faraway land.
BookPage ran an interview with Jacques in 2003 about his book The Angel's Command. In the interview, Jacques encouraged our interviewer to call him "Uncle Brian." He also shared stories of his past as a merchant marine, comedian and folk singer.
Fortunately for readers, Jacques was writing until the end. In a review of The Sable Quean, Jacques' most recent book in the Redwall series, Howard Shirley praised the author's formula: "Each tale almost invariably involves a conflict between 'good' animals and various evil 'vermin'—rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets and so on . . . It’s a formula that fans adore, which Jacques has great talent for exploring in surprising variety."
Another Redwall book, The Rogue Crew, will posthumously be published on May 3, 2011.
Do you have any stories of reading the Redwall books? Why will you miss Jacques?
Read an interview about The Angel's Command (2003). Read reviews of: