If you read the Favorite Book Friday article for The Great Good Thing, you know we have been reading Redwall by Brian Jacques. I should say we had been reading it, because we finished just before Christmas. And when I say we, I should clarify that this was the book Little Mama selected for me to read to her, but The Boy always joined in because he became engrossed by the story.
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Many of you are probably very familiar with Redwall (and the other 21 novels in the series), but for those of you who aren't, this post is for you.
That cover screams, "Adventure awaits! Read me now!"
Despite being published in 1986, being pretty popular, and initiating a huge series and cartoon show, I had never heard of Redwall until two years ago. I was investigating good quality books to get for my kids (because I read Honey for a Child's Heart and became and remain even more obsessed than I previously was with stocking our home library with non-twaddle), and this book showed up on more than one list of great books for kids, including the annotated list in my copy of Honey for a Child's Heart. The plot sounded interesting, so I purchased it.
Redwall primarily takes place in an abbey. The name of the abbey is where the book draws it's title, and the abbey gets its name from the red rock used to construct the abbey walls. All other events in the book occur in Mossflower Woods, which surround the abbey.
The abbey is home to an order of peace-loving mice, but it also houses other forest creatures like badgers, beavers, moles, hedgehogs, squirrels, and hares in times of trouble. And trouble does come for the abbey.
A ruthless and dangerous sea rat by the name of Cluny the Scourge makes his way to Mossflower Woods and attempts to capture the abbey for his own sinister use. The bulk of the book is essentially those within the abbey defending it against Cluny's hoard of evil rats, stoats, and ferrets.
Fortunately, a novice mouse at Redwall, Matthias, is its next destined protector. He faces his own separate adventures while searching for his predecessor's armor and sword.
Ultimately, the book is a story of good versus evil. I won't tell you how it comes out, but I bet you can guess!
My kids thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Boy couldn't and can't stop talking about it. In fact, as I'm writing this he is reminding me about Asmodeus, a poisonous adder who lives in the forest. He says this snake is his favorite bad guy.
From the perspective of an adult, I found a few things in the book to be a little far-fetched or implausible for logical behavior. However, it's not very plausible that animals talk, so... The kids, with their in-tact imaginations, saw none of these issues.
From the perspective of a mom, I was really pleased with the elevated and descriptive language the book employs. I'm a firm believer that if we want children to use proper language and have a good and extensive vocabulary, they need to be exposed to such as much as possible. Redwall delivers in that regard.
I will advise there are a few instances of "hell" used as an adjective rather than a noun. There may have been another instance of some mild "language" like that, but I can't recall specifically. I didn't find anything appalling, and changed or skipped those instances where words were used that our family doesn't say. You may find that prudish or you may appreciate the warning, but there it is.
While I'm issuing warnings, you should probably be made aware that a lot of characters in the book die. There are no grisly details, but death is referenced. In most cases, it's mentioned in such a way that the reader is left to imagine the scenarios to which the author alludes. A few of the beloved supporting characters die, and there is a bit more information given about their passing. However, I found nothing to be shocking or morbid. My kids didn't get upset, and I attribute that to they way Brian Jacques presented the deaths. I think, for a book that is steeped in battle, it was handled with finesse.
My last warning pertains to alcohol. The abbey stores an ale made from nuts, and a couple of characters are a bit enthusiastic about the prospects of consuming it. Though shown in a somewhat humorous manner, this is presented as a fault of these characters and isn't celebrated. However, I don't think most children, at least not younger ones, will understand that alcohol is being discussed. Mine didn't.
While we were reading Redwall, I discovered a couple of cartoon movies based on some books in the series. Knowing that we would finish the book just before Christmas, Santa brought Little Mama the movies for Christmas. As with any movie, they are not 100% faithful to the book, but they are close enough. The kids were excited to get them and have watched them more than once.
From what I can tell, the movies are a compilation of episodes of a show that aired for three seasons (1999-2002). This "movie" is the first half of those episodes.
Many times after we've read a book, I like to let the kids see the movie version of it, if it exists. Afterwards, we talk about the similarities and differences between the two. Maybe you disagree, but I think it's a good way to have an intellectual discussion with my kids, sharpen their observation skills, and even keep them interested in reading. Hopefully, they won't adopt the philosophy that they don't have to read the book because there is a movie of it. I want to drill it into their heads that those things are not equivalent. So far this tactic seems to be working.
This is the second movie, which contains the rest of the episodes from the television show. At least that's what I believe to be true; you can correct me if I'm mistaken. Just so you know, Amazon currently has this incorrectly listed as "The New Adventure".
To wrap this thing up, I say if you are looking for a chapter book to read with your kids that's exciting, well-written, and full of adventure, consider Redwall.
I need to know! Have any of you read all 22 books in the Redwall series? Tell me in the comments.
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