In Memory of Brian Jacques

If you don’t know who Brian Jacques was, he was a genius of a children’s author. His adventure stories filled with anthropomorphic animals (the Redwall Series) lured children back to thick books a full 10 years before the first Harry Potter book came out. His books seem like Robert Louis Stevenson adventures, if Stevenson had written about human-like animals instead of humans. Jacques recently and unexpectedly died.

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Links to Jacques

From his website:
http://www.redwall.org

(At the time his page brought up an announcement of his death and it currently gives access to more information about him and the series – including the always debated question should you read in chronological order according to the setting of the books or in the order published.)

From The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/arts/09jacques.html

From The BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-12380763

The Lesson He Taught Me About Fame

Which inspired me to share the important lesson about fame that Jacques taught me.

This all happened back in the 1990s when I worked for the Iowa City Public Library earning my way through college. I was a circ aide which meant that I did things like shelve books (often I was the one who did the children’s books), fight off the thundering hoards to try to put the new books away, and play Indiana Jones as I attempted to get to the other side of the book covered mat in order to pick up all the books, videos,  etc. that would be dumped on the floor between closing Friday and opening Saturday in a space where two people would work that really wasn’t laid out for more than one person to be there at once. I also trained volunteers (since I’d been one there since I was 12) and worked on the circulation desk checking things out to people.

Working on the circulation desk was good in that you got a view of the entire library, but bad in that you couldn’t leave the desk while assigned to it. Which is why instead of hearing one of the most important children’s writers of the 20th century speak in the library meeting room (not 50 feet away from me) I was stuck on the desk only hearing the rumbling tone of his voice punctuated by cheers or laughter from the crowd (one of the biggest I’d ever seen there). Jacques eventually finished and was escorted to the children’s room. He was followed by a flock of children and adults. More time passed. I think book signings were done, but I couldn’t see the children’s room from my post on the circulation desk. He was given a tour of a library and I thought maybe the guide would bring an important guest by to meet those of us stuck on the desk, but nope, not even close.

After his tour, I watched Jacques walk through the library and he couldn’t move a step without either a kid or an adult coming up to him, faces shining, excited to meet him. Eventually he worked his way through the steadily thinning crowd. Even in the lobby he was still mobbed, but from where I stood I could see out the door. Jacques walked out of the library, on the PedMall and into oblivion. Out of context where people knew they should be expecting Brian Jacques, famous author of the Redwall Series, he was just another person. Instead of being mobbed, he was ignored by people walking right past him. He stood there a minute and I’m not sure if he was orienting himself to the physical location in search of his hotel down the street or if he was orienting himself to the reality of not being a celebrity anymore, at least not for tonight.

So even though I never actually got to meet Brian Jacques or hear him speak (although from the little I could hear of his speech it was a good one), I did learn a lesson about the folly of chasing fame and public adoration because even at the height of your fame you can step through a door and it’s all gone.

Thank you Brian Jacques, Rest in Peace. Read a Redwall book in his honor.

UPDATED October 21 2016: I did some slight editing, added headings, and my current signature block. I also linked to the cover of Mossflower.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,  LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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trundlebedtales

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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