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The World Of Redwall

In the world of Redwall, courageous mice, squirrels and moles live in a place called Redwall Abbey, which they often must defend against armies of evil rats or ferrets. It is the fantasy world created for children by British author Brian Jacques (pronounced "Jakes"), who appeared March 13 on CBS News Saturday Morning to talk about his latest in the long-running series.

The eventual triumph of the small and less powerful animals is a hallmark of the stories and is intended to provide an empowering lesson for children.

Marlfox, Jacques' 11th and latest book in the Redwall series, made The New York Times best sellers list in February. Recently, hundreds of fans turned out to hear Jacques at an appearance in southern California.

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His stories, he says, are based on adventures that he or his friends actually lived. Many of his relatives went to sea or worked on the docks, as he did. And many have had tales to tell.

Brian Jacques (CBS)
Born in Liverpool, England, in 1939 on the eve of World War II, Jacques was greatly influenced by the effects of the war. As was common then in this blue-collar city, he quit school at 15. He set out to find adventure as a merchant seaman, traveling to distant ports including New York, Valparaiso, San Francisco, and Yokohama.

Tiring of the lonely life of a sailor, he returned to Liverpool where he worked as a railway fireman, a longshoreman, a truck driver, a bus driver, a boxer, a police constable, a postmaster, and a stand-up comic.

He wrote Redwall, the first book in the series, for the children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, one of the stops on his milk delivery route. He painted pictures with words so the blind children could see them in their imaginations.

His writing gained acclaim when Alan Durband, his childhood English teacher, read Redwall and showed it to a publisher without telling Jacques. That led to a contract for the first five books in the Redwall series. (You'll find a dedication to Durband in the front of Jacques' book, The Bellmaker.)

Many characters are based on people he has known or are drawn from his fans from around the world. One character, Arula, is Laura, a fan who sent in a whole list of reasons why she would make a great character.

All his principal characters are mice. "Mice are my heroes," he says, "because, like children, mice are little and have to learn to be courageous and use their wits."

The themes of all his adventures are unchanging: courage and decency win respect. When someone comes to take your homeland and hurts your loved ones, you have no choice but to stand and fight. hese themes are firmly rooted in the memories of his childhood, of enemy bombers that darkened the sky, of ships that never returned, and of soldiers who died to keep him free.

For more information on Brian Jacques and the Redwall series, check out The Official Redwall Web Site or www.penguinputnam.com.

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