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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
Brian Jacques

15 June 1939 -- ???

Brian Jacques (pronounced "Jakes") was born on June 15, 1939 in Liverpool, England to James and Ellen Jacques. James was a truck driver, and Ellen was a homemaker. He was the second of three sons born to the couple. His older brother is named Tony, and his younger brother is named Jimmy.

Liverpool is an industrial port city in northwest England on the Irish sea. Jacques was born there just as World War II was beginning in Europe, and the war affected his childhood in many ways. Warplanes often filled the sky and bombed his hometown. Many men he knew who were shipped out to serve in the Royal Navy, Air Force, or other armed services never returned. Looking back on how the war affected his homeland, Jacques once said, "everything in England was in short supply, I mean, proper fruit wasn't available for years." [3] As a result his family often ate dishes such as scouse, a cheap stew that is made almost with no meat.

Even without taking the war into account, Liverpool was a rough place to grow up. As a result, he often relied on books and his imagination to take his mind off the war, his hunger, and his environment. James had never had a chance to finish school and encouraged his children to read in the hopes that they would have opportunities that were never available to him. As a young reader, Brian was a fan of the adventure stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Daniel Defoe, Kenneth Grahame, Zane Grey, and Sir Henry Rider Haggard. One of his favorite tales as a boy was The Iliad by Homer. One of the things that disappointed Jacques most about the stories he read was the lack of details about the food the characters were eating, which was probably at least partly due to his own hunger.

When Jacques was a boy, education was not considered very important for working-class families in Liverpool. The rough times caused by the war led to many boys quitting school by the time they reached their teens so they could begin working to help support their families. Even with this view, Jacques loved school. He had a talent for writing, which became very evident when he was 10 years old. He was attending classes at St. John's School, an inner city school in Liverpool that had its playground on the roof. He was given an assignment to write a story about animals. He opted to write about a bird that cleaned the teeth of a crocodile. The story was so good that that the teacher believed he was lying when he said he wrote it.

Jacques' favorite teacher was a Mr. Austin Thomes, who was a big man and a captain in World War II. Jacques remembered him riding to school on a big bicycle with a haversack on his back. It was he who introduced Jacques to poetry and Greek literature. As a result, Jacques saved seven shillings and a sixpence to buy The Iliad and The Odyssey at a dusty used bookshop.

The trend in education did affect his life, though, when he was forced to quit school when he was 15 years old. He immediately went to sea as part of the crew of a merchant ship. He traveled to many far away ports with the ship, including New York, Valpraiso, San Francisco, and Yokohama. This was the beginning of a very interesting string of careers before becoming a writer, which included being a truck driver, a policeman, a docker or longshoreman, a stand-up comedian, a folk singer, a sailor, a postmaster, a police officer, a playwright, a poet, a journalist, and a radio host. He also delivered milk to the Royal Wavetree School for the Blind. This led to his becoming a patron of the school and reading to the children.

However,Jacques did not like the stories he was given to read to them. As a result, he began to write his own tales to tell the children. These stories were often fantastic stories that helped the children to find an escape from life in the distant, medieval lands in their imaginations.

In the 1960's, Jacques started a folk singing group known as The Liverpool Fishermen with six others, including his two brothers. Not long after, both his brothers emigrated to New Zealand. His older brother Tony, a carpenter, lived there with his children and grandchildren until he passed away in 1998. His younger brother Jimmy returned to Britain after twelve years. Jimmy is now a prison officer in Lancaster who is married to Sandra and has twin sons named Paul and Sean.

It was not until Jacques was in his forties that he became a published author. The ideas for the Redwall series had come to him as a teen while he was escaping the harsh industrial life of Liverpool. His inspiration was Stanley Park. Jacques has fond memories recalling from within the park a "huge, old, red sandstone wall ... It looked nice, in the summer, and I used to imagine it as some kind of castle. And that was the start of Redwall Abbey." [3]

His writing first gained acclaim when Alan Durband, a childhood English teacher who also taught Paul McCartney and George Harrison of the Beatles, read Redwall and showed it to a publisher without telling Jacques. The event led to a contract for the first five books in the Redwall series.

The Redwall books are epic adventure tales of good versus evil with the main characters being made up of animals such as mice, hares, badgers, ferrets, and many others. While the stories all end with good conquering evil, they have a realistic touch that adds a level of realism to the tales. "Everybody doesn't live happily ever after in the books; there is life and death in them," the author has noted. "But as in life, if you have a friend that you loved and that friend dies, then he or she will always live in your memory." [3]

The first book in the Redwall series, which was entitled Redwall, was not published until 1986. He has continued writing the series, which now has more than 10 titles in it including both novels and picture books. The books have become quite successful. They have been published in 18 countries and in 14 different languages. As of 1999, he has sold more than 1.5 million copies in the United States and about the same number in Great Britain.

Jacques writes either with a pen and paper or an old manual desk typewriter. He is not overly fond of computers. He likes to write outdoors with his garden being a common setting for his writing.

A 13-part animated series of half hour programs has been produced by a Welsh television company and may be seen on PBS at various times. Jacques has also written a screenplay for a future Redwall movie that he hopes will be produced at some later dates.

Brian lives with his wife, Liz, in Liverpool. The couple has two adult sons, David and Marc, and one granddaughter named Jade. Marc is a builder, a carpenter, and a bricklayer. David is a professor of art and a muralist, who has painted in Children's hospitals, soccer stadiums, and trade union offices as far away as Germany, Mexico, and Chile.

As well as writing, Jacques continues to host a BBC Sunday radio program entitled "Jakestown," which was on the air before his first book was published. He enjoys walking his West Highland terrier, Baby Mac, listening to opera and classical music, and doing crossword puzzles. Even with all this, Jacques still finds time to read. His current favorite authors are Mario Puzo, Damon Runyon, Richard Condon, Larry McMurtry, and P.G. Wodehouse.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) "Brian Jacques, 1939-", Gale Literary Databases; http://www.galenet.com.
2) "Brian Jacques: Biography"; Redwall Abbey; http://www.redwall.org.
3) Laurie Lanzen Harris. Biography Today: Author Series, Volume 5; Omnigraphics, Inc.: Detroit, Mich., 1999.

Titles by Brian Jacques
E-Jacques The Great Redwall Feast (1995) -- The inhabitants of Redwall Abbey prepare for and celebrate a feast in the honor of the abbot of the abbey. This book is dedicated to Jacques' granddaughter Jade.

J-Jacques Mariel of Redwall (1991) -- The mousemaid Mariel achieves victory at sea for the animals of Redwall Abbey by fighting the savage pirate rat Gabool the Wild, the warlord of rodent corsairs.

J-Jacques Martin the Warrior (1994) -- Captured and enslaved by the corsair stoat Badrang, young mouse warrior Martin vows to end the evil beast's plundering and killing.

J-Jacques Mattimeo (1990) -- Mattimeo, the son of the warrior mouse Matthias, learns to take up the sword and joins the other animal inhabitants of Redwall Abbey in resisting Slagar the fox and his band of marauders.

J-Jacques Mossflower (1988) -- Martin the warrior mouse and Gonff the mousethief set out to find the missing ruler of Mossflower while the other animal inhabitants of the woodland prepare to rebel against the evil wild cat who has seized power.

J-Jacques Redwall (1986) -- When the peaceful life of ancient Redwall Abbey is shattered by the arrival of the evil rat Cluny and his villainous hordes, a young mouse named Matthias is determined to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior, which, he is convinced, will help Redwall's inhabitants destroy the enemy.

J-Jacques Salamandastron (1992) -- Urthstripe the Strong, a wise old badger, leads the animals of the great fortress Salamandastron and Redwall Abbey against the weasel Ferahgo the Assassin and his corps of vermin.

J-P-JAC Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales (1991) -- A collection of seven creepy stories.

Redwall Abbey (http://www.redwall.org) -- This is the official website for all things that are Redwall related. it has information about the series and about its very popular author, It is sanctioned by the author.

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