Good-bye to Brian Jacques

A few days ago Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series, died.  I read through the different obituaries trying to choose one to link to here.  Since each of them provided a bit of a different perspective on the man, I’ve provided a link where you can read all of them.

I first became aware of the series in eighth grade or so when the some of the first books were being released.  I would watch for the new releases to appear in the library’s just-established young adult section.  Sometimes I would bike to the Berkley Public Library because they always had more of the books than my home library. 

It was touching so see so many university newspapers cover his death.  Although I usually think of these students as a younger generation, many of them discovered the series in the middle of its run and eagerly awaited the new books just as I did.

The Redwall stories feature small, unlikely heroes; scarily violent villains; riddles, quests, battles, friendship, and a richly described world that appeals to the senses.

If you love these stories, you should know there is one more Redwall book due out in May.  Until then, here are other stories that may appeal to fans of Brian Jacques:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are part of the same animal fantasy tradition.  Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are especially recommended in this case because they feature Reepicheep.  When my mom asked my opinion of the recent Narnia movies, I told her “They did a really good job with the Talking Mice.”  Young readers love Reepicheep for his fearlessness and chivalry.   Despite some of my beefs with the movie versions of these stories, it was a treat to see technology that let him appear the right size and shape on-screen– hard to do with a guy in a suit.

Another recent movie, Legend of the Gaurdians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole adapted The Capture and other books in the Gaurdians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky.  We switch here from mice to owls, but keep the elements of young animals joining the ranks of legendary heroes.

The Mistmantle Chronicles by Margaret McAllister (starting with Urchin of the Riding Stars) feature a cast of squirrels, hedgehogs, moles, and otters in a kingdom that needs rescuing.

The Mouse Guard stories focus, naturally, on mice.  This brave team of mice protects those who travel between the villages of the Mouse Territories.  In the first tale, set in Fall 1152, they face many dangers while investigating a disappearance.   Fierce battles and the legend of a great mouse hero make this graphic novel especially appealing for Redwall fans.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien steps away from sort-of-medieval settings to an unmistakably modern one.  In this tale, a community of intelligent rats are the heroes, helping a family of mice save a sick child and their home.

Poppy, by Avi, also takes place in a more modern setting.  Poppy’s mouse family lives under the rule of an owl who has convinced them that he is their protector.  When she learns otherwise, Poppy finds the courage to search for a new home and, ultimately, fight the owl.

Silverwing, the first book in The Silverwing Saga by Kenneth Oppel, stays in the contemporary world but brings in an element of mythology: the history of the world according to bats.  Shade longs to see the sun (forbidden to bats ever since they failed to take a side in the war between the birds and the beasts).  When this leads to him being separated from his colony, he befriends another lone bat and together they face the dangers of owls, humans, and bats of a different, more dangerous, species.

We move from birds at war with bats to birds at war with each other in Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan.  A tyrant hawk manipulates the blue jays and the cardinals to bring them to the brink of war.  Legend says that Swordbird, son of the Great Spirit, has the power to conquer evil and restore peace to the land…if the birds can overcome the obstacles to summoning him.

If you would rather stick to noble mice-errant, you could try The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo.  The subtitle tells you most of what you need to know, but I will add that there are also some bad rats.

Mice face off with cats in Three Terrible Trins by Dick King-Smith (best known for Babe: The Gallant Pig).  Fans of Redwall will especially enjoy King-Smith’s flair for language and the original mouse culture he creates.

Cats are the main characters in The Warriors series by Erin Hunter, starting with Into the Wild.  The story begins when a young house cat who longs for adventure becomes an apprentice warrior in a clan of wild cats.

Watership Down features an animal not discussed in this list so far, but well-loved by fans of the Long Patrol.  Richard Adams tells the story of a group of rabbits facing danger as they try to find a home.  Bits of rabbit language and mythology enrich the story.

-Miss Sarah

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