This adorable board book for the very young does everything right. It is part of the “BabyLit” series of literature-inspired books for toddlers and children.
Each page spread features a word in English on the left and Spanish on the right, along with adorable colorful illustrations by Alison Oliver. The words and pictures are suggested from the famous story of Don Quixote (fully titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) by Cervantes. In that book, a member of the Spanish nobility reads so many tales of chivalry that he decides to become one of those heroic characters himself. He calls himself Don Quixote, and recruits a farmer, Sancho Panza, as his sidekick. The two travel the globe pretending to be a knight and squire and go off to save the world.
Don Quixote is considered one of the greatest works of “classic” literature, and its characters and tropes have earned permanent places in Western culture. It has inspired other authors and artists as diverse as Gustave Flaubert, Mark Twain and Pablo Picasso. Unfortunately, it is known better for being one of those books nobody ever reads anymore than anything else. However, its cultural influences have endured, and many people know that the word “quixotic” refers to something that is ”exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical,” i.e., “tilting at windmills.” (In a famous scene in the book, Quixote jousts, or “tilts” at windmills, imagining them to be giants.) Or people may remember the song “The Impossible Dream” from the musical “The Man of La Mancha,” about quixotic quests.
Thus in this book, you will find the English and Spanish for “horse” and “windmills” and “castle” – in all, ten words. Pronunciations are given on the back of the board book.
As a reminder of what the story is about, you can watch Peter O’Toole (as Quixote) singing the song The Impossible Dream to Sophia Loren as Dulcinea, Quixote’s lady love.
Evaluation: Children will enjoy looking at the bright pictures and seeing the names for them in two different languages. It’s a great way to introduce them to the concept of translation as well as to get them started on multilingualism. Parents might be inspired to read, or reread, Don Quixote.
Published by Gibbs Smith, 2015