Sad News

Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series, just passed away at age seventy-one.

The Redwall series was a big deal to me as a kid and teenager. It was the first set of books I liked so much that I was willing to throw down my money (which was pretty scarce before I got old enough to babysit) for any one of them without having read it first. Even now, I own most of the series, my copies in various states of well-loved scruffiness.

Most of my copies are the paperbacks – small, fat books, quite distinctive to my eye. I can still pick out a Redwall book from a distance. Which is not to say that they’re interchangeable to me. Far from it.

Among the fuzzy-edged paperbacks on my shelf of Redwall books stands my copy of Mossflower, the first book I ever bought in hardcover. I was extremely proud of it. A hardcover book cost a lot of weeks of allowance!

Then there’s Mattimeo, a favorite of mine, which I was always bringing to school, only to hit one of those points where I had to stuff it into my backpack to continue reading at home because I knew I was coming up on one of the parts where I always cried.

Once I did get old enough to babysit, Pearls of Lutra was, for some reason, my go-to book for when I’d be staying past a kid’s bedtime and needed something to do until the parents came home. I also made myself a t-shirt quoting the poem at the beginning of the book. And I wore it. In public.

With Salamandastron, I formed a connection between the book and, of all things, Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs cereal. I don’t normally snack on cereal, reserving it for breakfast, but I would eat these sugar bombs in the middle of the afternoon while reading Salamandastron. (I have one particularly golden memory of sitting at our kitchen table at maybe 2:00, a time when ordinarily I’d have no reason to be sitting at the kitchen table, and eating Peanut Butter Puffs while reading Salamandastron, taking a pause to think that wow, life was good.) After awhile, either of the two would make me crave the other. Even now, a glimpse of that badger on the cover takes me back to the taste of a sucrosey excuse for a cereal that I haven’t had in at least ten years.

My parents used Redwall books to bribe me to break my hair-twirling habit. (Didn’t stick long-term, but I made it work long enough to get the books.)

I learned new words from the Redwall series. “Stygian” was one I was proud of. Also “desultory.” And in eighth grade, when my Latin I teacher told our class jokingly that we were getting so good that soon we’d “know the Latin for right and left!”, I surprised both of us by guessing the words based on a reference a Redwall book. (And that’s not even getting into everything I learned about siege warfare.)

I loaned my copies out to friends in high school, got my brother and his friends reading them, and gasped over a friend’s sister’s copy that was *fans self* signed by the author.

In the winter of 2008-2009, living in England with friends, I hit up the library for the newest Redwall books – the only two I didn’t have – and read them.

Which is all just to say that, you know, books make a difference to people.

Thanks for all the good times, Mr. Jacques. You’ll be missed.

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