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Don Quixote and the Windmills    by Eric A. Kimmel & Leonard Everett Fisher order for
Don Quixote and the Windmills
by Eric A. Kimmel
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This large format picture book introduces one of the great classics, via Don Quixote's most well-known adventure, 'tilting at windmills'. The note at the back of the book is just as intriguing as the story, telling of the adventures that befell Don Quixote's author, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, in real life. Leonard Everett Fisher's illustrations capture the spirit of the original and its historical context.

Eric Kimmel opens by asking if we love old stories, 'tales of knights in armor? Of castles and dragons? Of ogres, sorcerors, and damsels in distress?' He then warns us that such tales can drive you mad, as happened four centuries ago to a 'tall, lean' man in La Mancha, Spain, who read 'until his mind snapped' and he reinvented himself as 'renowned knight and champion Don Quixote de la Mancha.' We watch the madman set off on his travels on his old nag, 'Nag No More' Rocinante, accompanied by a fat farmer named Sancho Panza, who wants to see the world. Our hero picks a farm girl to be his 'fair lady' and christens her 'Sweetness', Dulcinea. Seeking ogres and sorcerors, he goes up against 'monstrous giants', each with four arms - the windmills, of course.

Don Quixote and the Windmills captures both the pathos and the humor of the incident, in an accessible form that kids will enjoy. There's a good lesson in there too, about the futility of trying to persuade someone that a deeply held belief is wrong. And of course you have to admire Don Quixote's persistence and Sancho's loyalty.

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