1939 – 2011
Jake Hope writes…
One of the brightest stars in the firmament of children’s books, the well-loved author of the popular ‘Redwall’ series, Brian Jacques, died of a heart attack aged 71 on 5 February 2011.
Descended from Irish stock, James Brian Jacques was born in Kirkdale, Liverpool on 15 June 1939. He grew up around the dockland areas of the city and attended St John’s School. Jacques was a great fan of the boy’s own adventures which his father, a lorry driver by trade, would read to him. Favourites included Stevenson, Haggard, Burroughs and Ballantyne, whose styles would come to influence his own writing for children.
Unbeknownst to Jacques, his friend Alan Durband, himself an author, sent a Jacques manuscript to his publisher lauding it as the finest children’s book he had ever read. Jacques was quickly offered a five book publication deal and the founding stone of the ‘Redwall’ sequence was placed. ‘Redwall’ started a series of novels that would traverse the histories of the Mossflower Woods and their environs. The woods and their now famous abbey, Redwall, were a world inhabited by anthropomorphised mice, rats and other small creatures. The tales are hearty, swashbuckling yarns of good triumphing over evil and are replete with battles, Machiavellian sub-plots, sumptuous feasts and a varied assortment of endearing or treacherous characters.
Jacques was a consummate raconteur with a mischievous sense of humour and perfect comic timing. This belied the sensitivity, care and desire the writer had to always produce the best for children and young people. These high ideals and his interest in storytelling and imagination were to span every part of his career and his writing.