My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love this. It’s a board book which introduces some of the key words in and around the story of Don Quixote, in both English and Spanish. Each spread deals with one particular moment ‘castle / el castillo’ and delivers a vibrant, chunky drawing underneath it which ties back into the word. The noises are translated as well: ‘baaa’ / ‘beh beh’ for the goat, and ‘zzz’ / ‘sss’ for the snoring in the ‘bed/la cama’ spread. On the back page of the book is a phonetic translation of the words in two columns: one for English speakers and another for Spanish. It’s such a lovely glorious book with images that are chunky and thickly coloured and intensely evocative in their precise, clean nature.
One key thing to mention – and I grant that this is such a finicky note on a very good book, but it’s something that is worth mentioning. I’d have welcomed a little more consciousness of the role of the gutter within the book. Some of the double page spreads are beautifully aware of their construction; the ‘armor / la armardura’ one for example sees both figures facing into the middle of the book, mirror images of one and another and thus they tie the language down very specifically to both images. Sometimes the colour notes on each one vary, yellow flowers instead of pink, a brown goat instead of a white one, but the construction of these images do not change. There is an inclusion about these spreads. You know that the ‘goat’ on one page is ‘la cabra’ on the other.
Other spreads such as the ‘windmills / los molinos de viento’ see two separate images without this mirror construction; ‘windmills’ has a bigger windmill to the left of it and then one smaller to the right, whilst ‘los molinos de viento’ has a smaller windmill to the left and a bigger one to the right, thereby matching the stylistics of the previous page, but not the mirror images of the other spreads.
It’s a very finicky note in a rather lovely book but things like this matter within a language primer, particularly for this age. Are you telling the children that windmills are image a) or image b) ? (And particularly, with something potentially quite removed from a child’s experience, are you asking them to link the word with the windmill or that windmill, the little one or the big one? And how are you asking them to engage with this page – where do you want your reader to be, even at this age, at this point in the text? How do you want them travelling over the page? Do you want them to start with one method and then shift to another or not? All questions that, I’m sure, are addressed as part of this lovely series, but they’re all questions that strike me as being centred around issues of construction and concern for readership.
I mention all of this because this is a book very much on its way to being perfect. I love things like this that deconstruct classics and reconstruct them in accessible, fun and contemporary ways. I have never read Don Quixote. I’ve never had the inclination. But right now, I sort of do, and I think that’s one of the massive powers of a book like this. It opens (and re-opens) doors into texts.