Written by Brian Jacques, Redwall is the first title in a series of children’s fantasy novels published in 1986. The latest novel in the series, The Roque Crew, is due to be released in 2010. That’s a very long time for any series of books to endure, so you know they must be something very special. Though written for children above 4th grade, the books are wildly popular with children of all ages.
The Redwall stories are about mice, squirrels and other forest creatures doing battle to save their home from an army of foxes, weasels and ferrets—all led by a band of outlaw rats — along the lines of the classic children’s books Watership Down and Wind in the Willows.
Like any great fantasy story, Redwall is full of good versus evil, heroism and cruelty, and unlikely heroes and heroines leading others on the path to peace. While the books are all set in the kingdom of Redwall, the stories occur in different time periods and center on different characters. In the first book, the hero is Matthias, a clumsy and unimportant mouse who goes up against the evil rat leader, Cluny the Scourge, to save his home town of Redwall.
Besides an enthralling tale that captures the imagination of its readers, the Redwall series offers up the story in ways even early non-readers can enjoy — each chapter begins with a pen and ink drawing that foreshadows the upcoming action—the same method used by Jan Brett in her children’s books.
The books also utilize cliffhangers to keep children coming back for more—practically every chapter ends with one. Add the codes and riddles written into the storyline that can be deciphered to gain more clues about the story and you have a book that most children are unable to resist.
While the author has been criticized for his simplistic portrayal of good and evil, that and his adherence to a predictable plot is part of what makes the books so readable and makes it quite likely that the Redwall series will continue to entice children for another twenty-five years.