Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote by Margarita Engle (review)
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Reviewed by
Engle, Margarita Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote; illus. by Raúl Colón. Peachtree, 2017 [36p]
ISBN 978-1-56145-856-1 $17.95
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-5

What might a boy do as his father gambles away his pay and the family falls into disarray? Whether from the sixteenth century or the twenty-first, he might possibly escape into his imagination, envisioning a world in which dragons can be vanquished, and a brave knight could “ride out on/a strong horse/and right/all the wrongs/of this confusing/world.” In simple first-person free verse, legendary author Miguel Cervantes relates how he and his family weathered hardships brought on both by his father’s profligacy and the vagaries of life in mid-sixteenth century Spain (think book-burning, plague, debtor’s prison), while gradually turning his vague ideas of a brave knight into the more specific figure that would become the character Don Quixote. Colón’s ink and watercolor artwork, in a palette of muted golds and blue-grays, skillfully blend Miguel’s visions with the harsh realities of his world, introducing a setting for which most viewers will have no prior frame of reference. Engle supplies historical, biographical, and literary context in her appended notes, making this a flexible piece for classroom use, readalouds, and independent reading. Says Miguel, “I still carry invisible stories/in my head, my daydreamed tales/help calm/my worries.” If ever a theme can connect children over a span of five hundred years, this is it.

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