The book Redwall, by Brian Jacques (pronounced Jakes), is on my extra credit list for the Once Upon a Time reading challenge. I should get some kind of extra credit for it because I’ve read it aloud 16 times! The year I started teaching 6th grade, a student recommended Redwall as our first read aloud. I took his advice, and the class response was amazing. Everyone enjoyed it, groaning when I had to stop or when the bell rang. When we completed the book, the kids searched through the class library for more books by Jacques. Even my most reluctant readers wanted the story to continue, and often would start reading Redwall all over again by themselves. Year after year, I find that this story, told simply with lovely, descriptive language, sparks the imaginations of my students and helps create a community of reading enthusiasts.
The world of the Redwall books has changed over the last 16 years. Brian Jacques keeps cranking out new books in the series–I think he’s up to 18 now; there’s been an animated version of Redwall on TV; Jacques and company have done their own readings for the audiobook versions of many in the series; and there’s even a new graphic novel of Redwall due out in October. I honestly don’t pay much attention to all of that, although some of my students become totally immersed. My appreciation is for this one little book.
Today the genre is rich with other wonderful stories and imagination that are perfect for 6th graders. But I still begin the school year by reading Redwall aloud, because I know that, without fail, it will capture the hearts of my students.