Miguel's Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

illus. by Raúl Colón. 32p. photos. Peachtree. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781561458561.
RedReviewStarGr 3–6—In a collection of poems, Engle explores the great Spanish writer's early beginnings. Miguel Cervantes's vivid imagination and love of storytelling are presented against the backdrop of his difficult childhood as the son of a vagabond barber-surgeon who often gambled away his family's money. Despite the constant relocation across Spain because of his father's debts, the boy reveled in dreaming about a bumbling knight slaying imaginary monsters. His adoration of books and learning kept him going, and Engle's mastery of the written word is evident in these lyrical verses. Colón's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are paired perfectly with the text and the subject. The sketchy browns, beiges, and teals give a dreamy quality to the narrative, and Cervantes's imaginings often float above renderings of his real-world setting. The poems' headings are presented in bold type and in faint watercolor, adding visual drama to the pages. Don Quixote appears beside the last poem, reminding readers of Cervantes's legacy. The book concludes with author's and illustrator's notes, historical and biographical notes, and more information about how Don Quixote, published in 1605 and credited as the first modern novel, has inspired artists for centuries.
VERDICT This expressive picture book biography presents a solid argument for why Cervantes should be revered as an important figure in the Western canon. A gorgeous and well-crafted work for all nonfiction collections.

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