books, books about books, characters, children's books, Don Quixote, illustration, imagination, Margarita Engle, Miguel's Brave Knight, Raul Colon, reviews, Sancho Panza, writing journey

An Ingenious Gentleman

Last week I finished Don Quixote, by Miguel Cervantes. I had read it in Spanish class back in high school, but at that time I was so intent on deciphering the language that I didn’t absorb the content. This time reading it through I was overwhelmed by the story.

If you haven’t read it, Don Quixote is divided into two parts. The first in which Don Quixote’s most well known scenes are played out. He battles windmills he perceives as giants and sheep he takes as an advancing enemy army. To Don Quixote’s eyes the most mundane everyday thing becomes extraordinary. Simple rustic inns are seen as castles to him.

His friend and steadfast companion, Sancho Panza is at first impressed with Don Quixote’s knowledge of and devotion to knight-errantry. As time goes by, Sancho’s view teeter-totters on a seesaw of cynicism and rationalization, and yet he maintains his loyalty to Don Quixote. No longer bonded only by their roles of a knight-errant and his squire, they have developed into good friends, who have become such in spite of and more so because of their acknowledged differences.

In the second part of the book, poor Don Quixote is often duped, and his noble perceptions are used against him. Don Quixote’s imagination makes his world and the world of the reader grander, more poetical and ever full of possibilities. I found it heartbreaking when he was played the fool by characters who thought they knew better the reality of the world.

While reading the book, a friend shared with me the picture book Miguel’s Brave Knight- Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote. Poems written by Margarita Engle and Illustrations by Raul Colon.

There is so much to recommend in this book. From Margarita Engle’s dedication, “No giant or dragon is bigger or stronger than the human imagination,” to Raul Colon’s illustrations and Ms. Engle’s poems that convey the timeline of Miguel Cervantes’ learning years, as well as his emotional growth. Through her poems she takes the reader on Miguel’s Cervantes’ writers journey to the point where his dreams, and his imagination allow him, as she writes in the poem titled Imagination, to work toward telling the tale of his brave knight who will set out boldly to right all of the wrongs of this wonderful but terribly mixed up world. I hope you get a chance to enjoy both of these beautiful books.

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