MIGUEL’s BRAVE KNIGHT: YOUNG CERVANTES and HIS DREAM of Don Quixote
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Raul Colon
Peachtree Publishers, 2017
A REVIEW BY VERONICA JORGE
I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a little good news; a happily-ever-after ending to a long tumultuous never-ending season. It’s not likely I’ll see the dust cloud of a hero riding in, or hear the sound of a trumpet blasting in victory.
Enter the picture book to the rescue to soothe, cheer and calm the heart with its hopeful words and uplifting illustrations. Which reminded me of a book I once reviewed and which I find to be pertinent to our times, all times; Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Raul Colon.
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 as: 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. (Also sounds like a day in the life of a writer).
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).
Which proves what we as readers and writers already know: words have power. So let’s saddle up, pen, or laptop, in hand and join our brave and idealistic knight in his marvelous quest for that unreachable star.
(My Review Originally published by the Christian Library Journal; used with permission.)
See you next time on October 22nd!
Most people are a combination of various cultures, though I think their ancestors tended to confine their marriages to one continent. Mine didn’t.
I am a potpourri of Nicaraguan, Dominican, Middle-Eastern, French, Chinese, and African cultures, (hope I didn’t miss anyone); and born in Brooklyn, New York.
Often pressured to take sides and answer, ‘So what are you?’ I comprehended the complexity of diversity. But how could I choose which part of me is the most important? The combination of each nationality made me who I am, makes me whole.
Considering the current challenges that threaten to divide our country, memories carry me back to my childhood and to that pivotal moment of September 11, 2001.
Growing up in New York City my life revolved around a kaleidoscope of colors and nationalities. I was present each year at the Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade. At age twelve I learned my first Israeli folk dance. I never missed the West Indian Day Parade. The glittery costumes of performers on stilts and musicians danced the length of Eastern Parkway, home to one of Brooklyn’s largest Caribbean and Orthodox Jewish communities.
During the holidays we baked cookies for the police officers and firefighters.
The neighborhood pizzeria was our favorite hangout. I can still see Tony’s can of Medaglia D’Oro coffee on the shelf. The best desserts were from Sinclair’s German bakery where I feasted on cinnamon-raisin rugelach. For newspapers and comic books, (yes, I know, I’m dating myself), we went to Kasim’s candy store, a Yemenite, who also made the best ice cream soda. Hungry? Tom’s Greek diner for a hamburger deluxe. Need a little bling bling? The Armenian jewelry store located two doors down near the Cuban dress shop. Then stop in at the Haitian photo studio where Roland would snap your picture and let you practice your high school French. Puerto Rican bodegas, Chinese, Dominican, Indian, Pakistani, Polish restaurants, and exquisite Russian delicacies; the list goes on. We had it all.
We were so many different faces from so many different places, but we were neighbors, friends, classmates, co-workers. We were a community. We were…we are Americans.
After the attack on the World Trade Center, we felt an emptiness of something lost, and unsure if the wound would heal. Our eyes watered. Strangers held hands. Our voices cracked singing the national anthem. A palpable patriotism enveloped us as we reached out to embrace and encourage one another and ourselves. Gratitude for our peace and freedom, and thanksgiving for the abundance America has provided for us filled our hearts.
Yet uncertainty clouded our vision. In a city where everyone carries backpacks, tote bags, over-size purses, and shopping bags, we feared the contents they might contain within while the slogan warned in our ears. ‘See something, say something.’
We stepped back from colleagues and classmates measuring the people we smiled at and lunched with every day. Do I truly know him? Can I trust her? How do they really feel about me?
My brown face worried I would be mistaken for a terrorist, yet my eyes doubted the integrity of the brown face from whom I had bought my daily paper for ten years.
These unplanned thoughts and fears that arose within us revealed the inconsistencies of our human nature. On the one hand; quick to help, befriend and love, yet so easily prone to judge, accuse, and look the other way.
Our nation has known its full share of prejudice and discrimination. We have all experienced it. Throughout our history each religious and ethnic group has skillfully practiced hostility against another. And yet, somehow, we have succeeded in overcoming many of these divisions. Our collective love of freedom always forces us to cry out against inequality and injustice wherever we see it, and especially when we discover it in ourselves. It is to our credit that despite the many conflicts our country has endured, race and ethnicity have not prevailed to divide us. At every level of society, from friendships, neighbors, and marriages to work, sports, and blended families, we find strength and unity in the shared values that make us unique. This unity, forged in the fires of adversity, cannot easily be dissolved.
Just as I cannot remove any of the cultures within me, for they are part of me and make me who I am, we as a nation, cannot separate ourselves from each other. We are joined together. It is who we are. Like the colorful and oddly shaped pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we make a perfect fit that forms and reveals a magnificent creation.
Our family portrait called America.
See you next time on September 22nd!
Winter. Lifeless, asleep, dead. All is gone. Lost. Until the last frost melts away. A sprig peeks up through the earth and winks at the sky. Buds and flowers appear bearing gifts of fruitfulness. Year after year, spring arrives; ever the same, dependable, faithful. Life renews. Time passes. Distance separates. But vibrant colors burst through the faded tapestry of memories. Friendship. Never-ending, never-waning. Ever alive.
See you next time on August 22nd!
I’ve always hated revisions and editing. It seemed sacrilegious to tamper with someone’s magnum opus. After all, they’ve poured out their whole heart. How dare I touch it? And what would be the fate of my own work in the hands of others? (I tremble, heart pounding). I realized it’s time I eat a slice, a very LARGE slice, of humble pie and drink a cup of trust.
That is how I discovered that in the midst of a faithful critique group, and a skilled editor, magic happens. My eyes open to see the pitfalls I’ve missed. My ears lean into the heart-beat of my thoughts. And with the group’s enthusiastic guidance and encouragement, (that includes you, Marianne H. Donley), I find myself digging deeper into myself and finding treasures I never expected. The result? A work far better than the one I thought was the best.
If I may borrow a line from our own Slice Of Orange, ‘the extra squeeze’ they put me through brought out the best flavor.
Humble pie never tasted so good.
See you next time on July 22nd!
Four Cuts Too Many: A Sarah Blair Mystery By Debra H. Goldstein
Kensington Publishing Corp. 2021 ISBN 978-1-4967-3221-7
It started out as a regular day. Sarah Blair sat outside of the Carleton Junior Community College waiting for her friend Grace Winston, a cutlery teacher in the culinary arts department. And if you’ve read the previous Sarah Blair mysteries, you know that nothing is ever ordinary in Sarah’s life.
In Four Cuts Too Many, Debra H. Goldstein’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery, Dr. Douglas Martin, the chairman of the culinary arts program gets stabbed in the back…literally. Sarah dons her sleuthing cap once again to find the real killer, but she finds herself hard pressed to figure out who had the best motive because the entire staff referred to Dr. Martin as the ‘Malevolent Monster.’
When the police target Grace as the prime suspect, even Sarah cannot explain away her friend’s argument with the chairman and her bloody apron. Or the fact that the knife in his back belonged to Grace!
Like searching for a hidden object embedded in a painting, Debra is a master at hiding the true killer in plain sight within the story. Filled with a motley crew of characters and a tangle of secret lives, and ambitious hearts where no one is exactly what they seem, Four Cuts Too Many is an engaging page turner and a delightful read.
I can’t wait to read what Debra cooks up in her next mystery. Five __ Too Many? Whatever it is, I am certain that with her creativity and story skills she will create another recipe for success.
And if you want to ramp up your kitchen skills, the recipes at the end of the book are a tasty ending to a great story so make sure to treat yourself.
See you next time on June 22nd!
(Hover over covers for buy links. Click covers for more information.)
Something is rotten in the town of Widget, and Rags-n-Bones knows it's all his fault.More info →
The Pacific breezes blow many things in from the ocean, this time its power, greed, and murder.More info →