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Miguel's Brave Knight Cover Art
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Miguel’s Brave Knight

Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

Spanish Edition: Miguel y su valiente caballero

by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Raúl Colón

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra finds refuge from his difficult childhood by imagining the adventures of a brave but clumsy knight.

This fictionalized first-person biography in verse of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra follows the early years of the child who grows up to pen Don Quixote, the first modern novel. The son of a gambling, vagabond barber-surgeon, Miguel looks to his own imagination for an escape from his family’s troubles and finds comfort in his colorful daydreams. At a time when access to books is limited and imaginative books are considered evil, Miguel is inspired by storytellers and wandering actors who perform during festivals. He longs to tell stories of his own. When Miguel is nineteen, four of his poems are published, launching the career of one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language.

Award-winning author Margarita Engle’s distinctive picture book depiction of the childhood of the father of the modern novel, told in a series of free verse poems, is enhanced by Raúl Colón’s stunning illustrations. Back matter includes a note from both the author and illustrator as well as additional information on Cervantes and his novel Don Quixote.

Format: Hardcover
Price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-856-1
Publication Date: 10/1/2017
Page Count: 32
Size: 9-5/8″ x 12″
Age Range: 8 – 12
Language: English
F&P: U, Gr 5, Genre HF
Lexile: 920L
Themes: Don Quixote, History, Imagination, Miguel de Cervantes, Poetry
BISAC 1: JUV004010 JUVENILE FICTION / Biographical / Europe
BISAC 2: JUV057000 JUVENILE FICTION / Stories in Verse
BISAC 3: JUV016040 JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Europe


“Engle’s poems are lyrical yet direct… Colón’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations (inspired by the prints of Gustav Doré) accompany every poem bringing Engle’s words into sharp focus…. An intriguing, lightly fictionalized introduction to an iconic author, this will encourage readers to learn more about the first modern novel.” ―Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Beautiful and engaging, this book will inspire readers to find out more.” ―Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Colón’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are paired perfectly with the text and the subject…This expressive picture book biography presents a solid argument for why Cervantes should be revered as an important figure in the Western canon. A gorgeous and well-crafted work for all nonfiction collections.” ―School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Margarita Engle (The Wild Book) and Raúl Colón (Draw!) combine their formidable strengths to create Miguel’s First Knight, an inspiring story of tenacious hope and indelible grit….what shines forth is the power of imagination to transcend hardship and injustice. As portals to creativity, Engle and Colón prove how ‘[s]ome daydreams really do/ come true.’” ―Shelf Awareness, STARRED REVIEW

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“Poems about contemporaneous events—the plague, book burning—add depth to Engle’s representation of the era. Colón’s noble portraits, done in pen, ink, and watercolor, recall the work of classic popularizers such as N.C. Wyeth and the D’Aulaires. Even readers who don’t progress to Cervantes’s own work will come away with an indelible sense of the story and its creator.” —Publishers Weekly

“Engle supplies historical, biographical, and literary context in her appended notes, making this a flexible piece for classroom use, readalouds, and independent reading. Says Miguel, ‘I still carry invisible stories/ in my head, my daydreamed tales/ help calm/ my worries.’ If ever a theme can connect children over a span of five hundred years, this is it.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The illustrations perfectly complement each poem and add a dream-like quality to the storytelling. I would highly recommend this as an addition for a biography or poetry collection. This would be a great read aloud (either all the poems or a selection) to assist with introducing classic literature to any audience.” ―School Library Connection



Cybils (Finalist, Poetry) ―Cybils, 2017

Best Children’s Books of the Year ―Bank Street College of Education, 2018

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People ―National Council for the Social Studies/Children’s Book Council, 2018

Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts ―Children’s Literature Assembly, NCTE

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International Latino Book Awards (Finalist, Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book) ―Latino Book & Family Festival, Latino Literacy Now, 2018

Land of Enchantment Book Awards (Nominee, Grades 3-5) ―New Mexico Library Association, New Mexico Council of ILA, 2020-2021


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Meet the Author

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse books, including a Newbery Honor winner, The Surrender Tree; a PEN USA Award winner, The Lightning Dreamer; and a verse memoir, Enchanted Air, winner of many awards, including an inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award Honor and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Margarita’s books have also received three Pura Belpré Awards and four Américas Awards, as well as a Jane Addams Award, International Reading Association Award, Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and the Charlotte Zolotow Award. In 2017, the Poetry Foundation named her the Young People’s Poet Laureate. Margarita grew up in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during summers with her extended family in Cuba. She was trained as a botanist and agronomist before becoming a full-time poet and novelist.

Meet the Illustrator

Raul Colon

Raúl Colón was born in New York City in December of 1952 and moved with his parents in the 1960s to Caguas, Puerto Rico, where he studied commercial art. In 1978 Colón made Florida his home, working at an educational television center designing everything from puppets to short animated films. In 1988 the artist settled with his family in New City, New York, and began a freelance career. Today, Colón continues to be a versatile and acclaimed illustrator whose work has appeared in important national publications. An award-winning illustrator of over thirty books for children, Colón has received a Golden Kite Award, a Pura Belpré Award, and both a gold and silver medal in The Original Art show.