The first book that I remember truly falling in love with, imagining that I was a part of the world, friends with the characters was Redwall by Brian Jacques. I was six. That book ruined me for life.
This was back in the *mumble* grrrug time, when the Redwall series only had two or three books to its name, before Jacques had written any picturebooks. So, my teacher had few choices over what she could read to us to prepare us for the visit. She told us Brian Jacques would travel all the way from England to come to our school. That meant nothing to me, until my teacher introduced me to Clooney the Scourge and Redwall Abbey.
Let's be honest. I was WAY too young for this book. At the time, I was actually a struggling reader. My parents had taken me to an intervention specialist. But when my teacher started reading Redwall aloud to the first, second and third graders, I loved the idea of wielding a sword beside Martin or Matthias. I made my parents buy all the books. I struggled through them, at first struggling along as my teacher read aloud, but eventually working ahead.
We were only about one-third of the way through the book when it came time for Jacques to spend the morning with my class. He did a dramatic read aloud for us. I remember being very angry, because even though my teacher had shown him the exact spot where she'd left off reading to us, Jacques began reading a portion we'd already heard. Sure, he stood, did the voices and included some arm motions, but I wanted to hear what happened next.
I also remember being insanely jealous, because as I got my copy of Redwall signed, Jacques didn't really say anything to me. But he had told my friend Catherine that if she lived in the Redwall world, she would have been a squirrel. What injustice! What animal would I be, Brian? I still don't know.
I'll admit that there while there was a time I was completely on-top of reading all of the books in the series. It was around seventh grade that I stopped reading Jacques. But he still has my imagination.
I actually attended an author visit he did to Cover to Cover bookstore last year. While he seemed...er, rounder. His voice was still the same one that had read the wrong passage of Redwall to me when I was six.