Before the Harry Potter books—and after them, too—there was the Redwall series (The Sable Quean, 2010), over 20 books set in different eras and different parts of the Mossflower woods and featuring the robust cast of characters who inhabited them. Jacques’ death on February 5th (“Brian Jacques, Writer of Redwall Series, Dies at 71,” by Margalit Fox, New York Times), in his hometown of Liverpool brought back memories of a gracious man as well as a talented and prolific writer.
A number of years ago, we were together at an authors’ festival and I had the opportunity to watch him give one of his class visits. With his storyteller’s voice, he enchanted the children as talked about his writing, but he also he took the opportunity to ask the children (many of whom were dressed as his characters) their opinions about the books and what they thought should happen. His young audience was obviously thrilled as he considered their comments. He was just as inclusive with the other writers at the festival. Talking about his life in Liverpool, he said it was pure luck that his first Redwall book was published. Walking down the street, his manuscript in a shopping bag (he was reading it to children at a school for the blind), he happened to run into his old English teacher, who said he’d like to give it a read. The teacher then showed it to a publishing friend who snapped it up. Lucky for us.