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Brian Jacques, the beloved British author of the Redwall series, died of a heart attack over the weekend at age 71.

Hailed as one of “the best children’s authors in the world,” Jacques’ 21 Redwall books were translated into 29 languages and sold 20 million copies worldwide. His novels — despite centering on anthropomorphic woodland critters, such as mice, otters, moles, and squirrels — told epic tales of good triumphing over evil and never spoke down to their young audiences. When I was nine years old I finished Martin the Warrior, the third installment of the series, and remained in a daze for an entire afternoon. The characters had grown dear to me, and when a few of the most lovable ones died in the final battle scene, I felt genuine loss but also a sense that I was better for having known them. It was the book that cemented me as a reader for the rest of my life — I’d discovered what it was like to have such connection to a story, and I wanted to have it again and again.

With the news of Jacques’ death, I want to go through my closet and dig up those dusty childhood books I haven’t read in more than a decade. I know I’ll find them — Jacques’ novels aren’t ones you ever throw out.

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