________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 2004


Tales of Don Quixote.

Miguel de Cervantes. Retold by Barbara Nichol.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2004.
203 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-88776-674-9.

Subject Headings:
Don Quixote (Fictitious character)-Juvenile fiction.
Spain-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Lorraine Douglas.

**** /4


In just the sort of scene that he'd imagined in his quiet rooms, two enchanting maidens were taking in the air beside the gates. Quixote made his way across the bridge.

"Your ladyships need not flee," said he, "nor fear any rudeness. For it would not befit a knight such as I am to harm a soul, much less such ladies of high station as yourselves."

They found his speech perplexing. He spoke just like a character from books. And as to his appearance: tall and thin, on a broken moldy steed, sunburned, dirty, his face concealed behind a slipshod paper mask.

Barbara Nichol is an award-winning writer of television and film scripts, radio documentaries, children's books, poetry and magazine articles. Her books for children include One Small Garden (2001), Dippers (1997), and Beethoven Lives Upstairs (1993).

     In 2003, she wrote and produced a three part series, Don Quixote: Four Hundred Years on the Road, for the CBC radio program Ideas. Don Quixote is considered by literary experts to be the first novel written and one of the most important books of all time. It was published in two parts in Spain in the early 17th century and was positioned in-between the medieval chivalric romances and the modern novel. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of its creation, Barbara Nichol has retold The Adventures of Don Quixote for a young audience.

     Nichol's goal is to present her favourite tales about Don Quixote which she thinks a young reader will like the most. She has omitted the tales which do not revolve around Don Quixote. Her language is very readable and clear, and the stories are presented with a lightness of touch. The retelling retains the humour of the knight-errant's character and reveals his idealistic and impractical nature. Short chapters have titles which encapsulate the adventures contained within, like Don Quixote's Books Are Burned; He Recruits the Peasant Sancho Panza; The Second Sally Begins. Once Don Quixote is dubbed a knight by the innkeeper, he is off to meet up with trollops, windmills, and a herd of sheep he mistakes for an army. Barbara Nichol's writing often marries the fantastical with the realistic, and she is the perfect retelling voice for the subject material of Don Quixote.

     This accessible book will contribute to young people's understanding of the classics. It is a unique and welcome addition to children's library collections as it is not an abridgement but a retelling. Adults will also be interested in reading this story which presents a rueful depiction of human nature and its foibles. The size of the book fits perfectly into young hands, and it is beautifully designed. The fore-edge pages are deckled, and the book is wrapped in an attractive cover featuring an illustration by Barry Moser of the lanky Quixote on his horse.

Highly Recommended.

Lorraine Douglas is a Winnipeg, MB, writer and artist.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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