My girls and I have been thoroughly enjoying a series of books by ~believe it or not~ a British author, Brian Jacques. The series is “Redwall” and we’ve read through the first 6 or so and are avidly collecting the rest.
We first met the Redwall series when the girls were only about 5 and 2 – and our local PBS station picked up the series for afternoon TV broadcasts. The girls got ‘hooked’ quickly on the animated stories, only to have them pulled abruptly from the time slot in the afternoon and placed instead on a Sunday morning (whilst we were in church) so they were not able to watch them. I contacted the station to find out why they were pulled and was told “we had some complaints from parents that they were too violent”. Well, that’s our PC world for you. So, our station pulled the series from the afternoon slot, moved it to Sunday morning and then ditched it as quickly as they could, apparently.
At any rate, once the series was pulled, I did some research online and found a set of Redwall audio tapes – the complete and unabridged book entitled Redwall. My girls loved it – and I can assure you that just about any boys would!
Once the girls got a little older, I began collecting the series and I now read them aloud as a family reading – we do a lot of reading when we go out for drives. I have a sense for the dramatic, and Jacques uses a number of different British dialects for the voices of his characters – which are fun for me to read.
I liked the series immediately because it was equivalent historically to a kind of age of chivalry – only the characters, rather than being human, are critters. There are good and evil – with few gray areas in Jacques writings – the good being mice, squirrels, badgers, otters, shrews, moles, hedgehogs among others. Bad are the rats, stoats, weasels, foxes – and the fights between good and evil are accomplished with swords, pikes, bows, etc. The stories have marvellous plots with themes of liberty over oppression being carried out in very realistic ways. While most of the stories center around Redwall Abbey, and the characters who live in the abbey give thanks for their food and behave themselves in a moral way, Jacques does not make the mistake of assigning them a religion. The characters are so well developed, though, that you’ll recognize friends and family in their personalities.
I’ve always enjoyed reading – love the fantasy of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, etc. But fantasy has never been an overriding love – and it has to make sense to me. The Redwall series of books are IMHO, written just as well as Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. When I fall in love with characters, and actually shed tears over their demise, well, that’s good writing in my book – and most modern fiction just doesn’t touch my heart and mind that way.
So, if you’re looking for some good modern literature for your kiddos that isn’t full of PC crap, but spins a good yarn and upholds the truths that you value, check ‘em out!