Miguel’s Brave Knight / by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Raul Colon. 3.7.2019

Peachtree Publishers ISBN 9781561458561

PRI Grades 2-5 Rating: *5

Fairytales make us believe that dreams can and do come true. But it was Don Quixote who dared brave the dragons (that is, windmills and obstacles) that imprison the treasures and beauty of life, in order to set them free.

In Miguel’s Brave Knight, the reader meets the boy Miguel de Cervantes. Born in 1547, and a contemporary of the English playwright William Shakespeare, Cervantes would become one of Spain and Latin America’s most important literary figures. Today the world knows him best as the creator of the idealistic, and sometimes foolish, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha. His character’s name has even become part of the English language: quixotic, which Webster’s dictionary defines to mean foolishly impractical, especially in the pursuit of ideals.

Well-known for her strong and descriptive verses, Margarita Engle, winner of numerous awards, enchants the reader with a series of poems that reveal the personal sorrows, as well as the social and political events of the day, that shaped Miguel’s life and formed his thoughts. “Hunger”, “Waiting”, “Daydreams”, “Disaster”, “Learning to Write”, and “Imagination” are some of the poem titles that portray the young author in the making.

Full-page pen and ink watercolor illustrations by Raul Colon, an award-winning illustrator of more than thirty books for children, complement Engle’s moving verses. The muted brown, grey, and blue tones create dream-like visions that help the reader experience Miguel’s life.

The end pages include interesting author and illustrator notes, and important historical and biographical information.

A book that awakens dormant aspirations and provokes action, Miguel’s Brave Knight is a timeless tale of the power of the imagination to create hope out of despair, turn dreams into reality, and bring into existence the light from within that dispels the darkness. In this way one can, as Miguel says, “right all the wrongs of this wonderful but terribly mixed-up world.” (From the last line of Engle’s poem, “Imagination”).

Veronica Jorge, CLJ