Monday, February 7, 2011

Thank You, Mr. Jacques

This weekend, one of the most brilliant and beloved childrens/fantasy authors passed away.
Brian Jacques, creator of the Redwall universe, died Saturday at age 71.
I don't know if many of you have had the opportunity to read any of the 22 books in the Redwall series, but if not, I definitely suggest you give at least one a try, in the future.

For me, Brian Jacques was the author who really got me seriously interested in the craft of writing.
I'd written stories off and on as a kid, but it wasn't until I read a few books in the Redwall series that I thought of writing as a serious future possibility. His storytelling style is still hard to put into words: it was didactic and entertaining at the same time, not as lofty as C.S. Lewis, but still sophisticated.
What I learned from Mr. Jacques' storytelling:
1. the heroes journey - the lowly, least-of-these characters who makes a journey of self-discovery and becomes a hero will always be an endearing story for young readers, children and teens alike, mainly because kids know how it feels to be overlooked because of age or lack of ability. Every time one of his characters grew and matured, whether Matthias, Mariel, Martin, Tammo, or any other - I was right there with them.
2. A little something about love. You know what I learned from Brian Jacques' books? Good storytelling does not have to include some dopey designated romance. As a young reader, love stories didn't interest me. I wanted action, and I learned that epic-proportion storytelling was good enough.
3. A little something about death. At ages 10-11, I was reading stories in which characters, sometimes really important ones, died. Being a 'good guy' didn't always guarantee a happy ending, in other words. I know that doesn't sound like much now, but back in the '90s when I was a kid, it was kind of a big deal.
4. Fight scenes. Before I soldiered through the Lord of the Rings series and battled orcs at Helm's Deep and Minas Tirinth, I battled evil rats, weasels, and foxes in the Redwall world.
I wish I could bottle up the energy I felt then and pull it out now that I'm older.

Brian Jacques will always be one of my biggest literary influences. He shaped my reading as well as my writing style. I'm writing this post while in class right now, so I know I don't sound very coherent, but I just wanted to say what a talented, original individual this guy was. I mean, seriously! How many authors do you know who have created a high fantasy world populated by butt-kicking, tough-as-nails anthropomorphic animals? Brian Jacques' work can still be found in both Childrens Fiction sections and High Fantasy sections at bookstores. To have that big of an age span for fans, encompassing both kids and grown-ups (and all of this pre-Harry Potter) speaks to his talent as a storyteller. Since the first Redwall book was published in 1986 until now, loyal fans and newcomers alike have journeyed to an unforgettable world.
We will miss you, Mr. Jacques. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.Okay so technically that's Reepicheep. But it could just as easily be Matthias or Martin!

"I love book-signings. Kids waiting in line for you to scribble on their new books, haha!"
- Brian Jacques

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