“Every person should have a hard cover copy of the book they first fell in love with.” I was sitting in my Children’s Literature class at the time and I knew exactly which book was my first love: Redwall. I was in the second grade and I was getting bored with the books that most of my peers were reading. My older brother was reading books by Brian Jacques (the author of the Redwall Series) while my dad was reading The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Earthsea, and The Chronicles of Narnia out-loud to us. To say the least I was looking for books with a little more substantive plot. Thus, my search for fun fantasy books leads me to some of the finest uses of animal personification.
Following the first novel, Mattimeo reunites us to the original cast of the Redwall and introduces a new crew including the son of the great Matthias the warrior: Mattimeo.
There has been peace in the land of Redwall for many seasons and the residents are preparing for their feast of the summer equinox when Slagar the Cruel arrives. Disguised as a group of traveling performers, they trick their way inside the protective walls of the Abby and kidnap young Mattimeo along with several other young ones.
What at first seems like a devilish plan soon becomes a grave error as Matthias, Basil Stag Hare, and Tess the Squirrel set out to bring back their young ones. As the warriors of Redwall chase the elusive Slagar through Mossflower Wood and the land beyond they will be tested, and the young Mattimeo will begin to discover the warrior spirit he inherited from his father.
This book in particular brings back some childhood memories. Before I was able to read this level of book my mom took my brother and I to the public library where my brother checked out the first book. Because I was a highly competitive person (I still am, but thankfully I’ve learned to not be a sore loser as well) and because I wanted to be just like my brother, I grabbed the second book and brought it home. I don’t remember reading a single word of it at that point, but I would stare longingly at the cover and flip through to look at the illustrations on each chapter heading. This was when I was in kindergarten. It took me two years before I was able to read it.
A shining characteristic of Brian Jacques’ writing is that it doesn’t get any worse from book to book. All too frequently (though I wouldn’t say most of the time) the sequels aren’t as good as the initial story. This is a shame, but also an unfortunate reality. I think Jacques performs this feat of maintaining quality literature in part because each book is able to stand on it’s own. By that I mean that it doesn’t need any other book for the reader to understand what’s going on.
I’ve shared a lot about my experience with this book, but I’ve failed to enlighten the reader much about the book itself. The reason for that is because I can’t think of much to say that I didn’t say about the first book. The characters are well crafted and full of personality, the setting is detailed and brought to life, and the plot is complex enough to appeal to older readers yet simple enough to entertain children and teens. If there’s anything disagreeable about this book it’s the way in which everything ends perfectly, which was more popular during the time when the books were written than it is now. In my honest opinion I think everyone should read some of Jacques’ work at some point in his or her life. It may not be literary fiction, but it is a great story, and everyone needs to read a great story every now and again.