We lost a wonderful, imaginative author this week. On February 5th, Brian Jacques passed away at age 71, from a heart attack. He was a British author who was best known for his fantasy series, Redwall.
I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Jacques speak a few years ago at Northern Kentucky University. The auditorium was filled with a couple-hundred 10-14 year old boys and their parents, a few girls scattered here and there, and me.
The first thing he did was to school us in the correct pronunciation of his name (Jakes -with a long a). We listened to him talk about his life -which was quite an interesting adventure. His first story was written at age 10. When Mr. Jacques told us it was about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth, his young audience laughed. They didn't think it so funny anymore when they learned Mr. Jacques' teacher called him a liar and caned him. His story was very good, and she didn't believe he wrote it. The punishment was given because he wouldn't admit that he copied it.
He talked briefly of becoming a sea merchant sailor at age 15, but what I remember most about his talk is why he started writing. He delivered milk to a school for the blind, and he began to spend time with the children. He starting writing stories for them, and because they were blind, he added lots of descriptive details.
I owe Brian Jacques a big thank you. I'm a teacher, and over the years I've had many boys who were reluctant readers. When they would come to me and say there wasn't anything interesting to read, I'd introduce them to Redwall. Inevitably, they would devour every book in the series I had on my shelves and ask for more.
Brian Jacques will certainly be missed. Rest in peace.