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The Redwall series was originally written by Jacques for the students of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind. This is pretty well documented, from the official website (click on "About Brian" and scroll down):

Brian wrote Redwall for the children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, where as a truck driver, he delivered milk. In appreciation of his first audience, he made his style of writing as descriptive as possible, "painting pictures with words" as he termed it, hoping the schoolchildren could engage with his tales in their imaginations. He was to become a long term friend and supporter of the school, serving as a board member and raising funds through a variety of charitable events.

To a Washington Post obituary:

"I thought, 'What's wrong with a little bit of magic in their [the students'] lives?' " Mr. Jacques said.

He spent every night of the following seven months writing a mystical 800-page tale, which he scrawled longhand on recycled paper and kept in a grocery bag.

However, I haven't been able to find any information on what the students themselves thought of the book or the series in general. I assume Jacques would have provided copies or done a reading, especially since it seems he didn't plan to publish the book widely at first.

Is there a record of any of the students reading Redwall (or any later book in the series), and what they thought of the book? Did they enjoy the carefully descriptive writing as Jacques hoped for?

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  • "I assume Jacques would have provided copies": that would require access to a Braille embosser or an organization that would create a Braille version (the school itself?). Since he wrote the first novel in longhand, i.e. there was initially no digital version, reading it to the children or creating an audio book seem the more likely options.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 16:06
  • @Tsundoku true! But quite definitely he shared the story with them in some way.
    – bobble
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 16:10

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Yes, it seems that Jacques did read drafts of the Redwall novels to the children in the school, using them as testers to check the pacing of the story and so on. Later on, when he had become a successful author, he would visit the school and read the books to the children, especially at Christmas when he would dress up as Father Christmas to do it.

I obtained much of this information from a very informative interview Jacques made with the National Catholic Register, titled "Redwall's Mice, Morals and Imagination". As noted in the question, Jacques began reading to the children in the Blind School when he was a milkman. He recalled:

One of my stops was the Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool. When I realized that there were people on the staff whom I had known when I was growing up, I asked if there were anything I could do to help the kids?... It was suggested that I might want to come and read to the children once a week, and I agreed.

He hated the books that were provided though, finding them "perfectly horrid and depressing", dealing with dark subjects like alcoholism, drug abuse, and teenage pregnancy. He resolved to write his own stories instead with more adventurous and stimulating themes to "take themselves out of their situation". In another interview he noted that Redwall was never intended to be a book, but "I wrote the story as a read-aloud for blind children at a school nearby”. He recounted how he learnt from the children's reactions to the stories that he read them:

I learned a great deal from reading to the children. I learned where the story was flagging, how to pace it, what kind of characters the children responded to, and which situations made them laugh or cry.

In truth it is not absolutely clear from the NCR interview whether this refers to reading the Redwall stories, or the other books he was provided with. But from the context of the text, his disdain for the other books, and with the detail given in the other interview, it does seem to me that he was indeed referring to his own work.

After the Redwall books were published, Jacques would go back and read them at the school:

I love reading to the children and I still do so from time to time as life and schedules allow. They're very dear to my heart.

and in particular loved to dress up as Father Christmas for them,

I play Father Christmas for them each year, although as soon as I say “Happy Christmas!” the children yell, “Hi Brian!” Not a very successful disguise I'm afraid.

Jacques' closing remark in the NCR interview again confirms how he used to read the Redwall stories to the blind children (his "mice"):

And the “mice” I originally told the stories about and to, have now expanded into millions of “mice” — my Redwall readers — all over the world.

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