What Younger Me Knew & Brian Jacques: Day 4 of Project 365

US cover of Mariel of Redwall

Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” ― Brian Jacques, Taggerung

You know that book, that author, that series that turned you into a reader? The books that took you from childish chapter books like Stuart Little and Hatchet to real, mammoth, three-hundred page novels that you couldn’t put down?

Brian Jacques did that for me. I remember the first moment I picked up a book in his Redwall series. In fifth grade, another boy had given his book report on one of the Redwall books, and the story was so confusing, the map he drew on the whiteboard so huge, and the characters so complex, that I had to pick up a book for myself. After all, I didn’t understand a word of the story from what the boy had told the class.

So I picked up Mariel of Redwall first. It is the fifth book in his series, but it was the first book he wrote that starred a female character and that was enough for me. I’ve always had a personal affinity for female heroines in what is typically masculine-driven worlds. I read it incessantly, driving my mother nuts, taking breaks in between dance classes to read more of the story. The characters themselves danced in my head while eating, talking, writing, playing sports…

Years later (what, in a rational timeline, would be about now) I see those books as only the stepping stones into the “real” world of reading. Fraught with death, gore, sex, treachery, and all manner of things one doesn’t tend to experience in a typical work day. I do not remember why I loved the writing, and I only assumed it was the intensity of the storylines that drove me forward.

Then I picked up a book and started sifting for quotes.

And damn, the British man Jacques has a way with words.

I’m not only talking about his prose (though his way with prose moves me more now than it did when I was still a child). The man fills his books with poems that enrich his fantasy world, and puzzles coded into phrases that his characters (and the reader) desperately tries to decipher before the end of the novel.

It feels odd when you realize you had better taste as a child than you had thought. You’ve become an adult, you’ve grown into your tastes and opinions through years of experience and listening and thinking. And then you stumble across something that shows you that even with all your experience, with all of your knowledge and reading know-how…perhaps you still got something wrong.

I suppose it’s worthwhile to go back and read old books over again. Try on old favorites and see how they fit now. See if it doesn’t make you compare who you are now with who you wanted to be as a little kid. I dare you.

“Shake paws, count your claws,
You steal mine, I’ll borrow yours.
Watch my whiskers, check both ears.
Robber foxes have no fears” – Brian Jacques


3 thoughts on “What Younger Me Knew & Brian Jacques: Day 4 of Project 365

  1. Ah, Redwall! I have such fond memories of the series. As with you, this was probably the first “big” book series I really got into — discounting Narnia, Jack London’s novels (which aren’t in series), and The Lord of the Rings (which were being read to me as a preteen, I didn’t read them myself until later). Mossflower was the first I read, and it’s still my favorite because of the relatively unique setting and plot (unique for the series, not for fantasy literature in general). Jacques just had such a passion for the art of storytelling in itself — he always seemed excited to tell you what his characters were up to.

    I’m a firm believer in rereading good books, and I know I’ll be returning to the Redwall series eventually. After all, there are 21 total and I know I haven’t read the latest ones…

  2. Pingback: The 4 Reading Tenets & Carolyn Wells: Day 16 of Project 365 « Writer's Code

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