I once had a literature professor assign the class to read Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes in its entirety, even though we would only discuss a few portions of the book. “If you don’t read the whole thing now,” he justified, “when will you go back and finish it? I’m doing this as a favor to your busy, post-college self.” I did not think it was very generous at the time, especially as I sat in my dorm room trying to cram all 1000+ pages into a weekend. It’s been over a decade since that class, though, and I still haven’t reread Don Quixote. Maybe my professor was on to something after all.
What I do make time to read, however, are children’s adaptations. I want my little bookworms to know more about Don Quixote and Sancho Panza than they’ll get from Wishbone. There are plenty of options out there, but here are my favorites:
For the littlest readers, I can’t get enough of Don Quixote: a BabyLit Spanish Language Primer by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver. It doesn’t follow the story so much as use illustrations inspired by the book to introduce some basic vocabulary: man/el hombre, book/el libro, goat/la cabra. There’s a glossary of terms on the back for anyone unfamiliar with either English or Spanish, and the illustrations are as bright and cheerful as I’ve come to expect from all the BabyLit classics.
The Misadventures of Don Quixote adapted by Tom Lathrop and Jack Davis is a great option for an abridged translation for reading aloud (or handing off to confident readers). The text walks a great balance between explanation and action. Knowing that Dulcinea’s name comes from dulce (sweet) matters enough to warrant an aside, but the narrative is fast-moving enough to keep even young children interested. Tom Lathrop was a professor of Spanish literature until his death in 2014 and edited more than one academic translation of Don Quixote. That may not matter to my kids, but it mattered to me.
All of the versions on this list are fantastic, but The Complete Don Quixote adapted by Rob Davis is my favorite. The graphic novel format does a great job portraying two oft-overlooked aspects of Don Quixote in other adaptations I’ve seen: the role of the narrator in the original and how funny Don Quixote is. This is a pretty inclusive adaptation, so there are a few scenes where the punchline revolves around double entendre. I had no qualms reading this with my third grader, but you may want to screen the book first, especially if you haven’t read the original.
Las increíbles aventuras de Don Quijote y Sancho Panza como jamás te la contaron adapted by César Bona y Sara Mateos is my most recent discovery. I’m so excited about this one! Bona chose 15 of the most iconic and entertaining scenes in Don Quixote and adapted them for kids. The book is entirely in Spanish, but not nearly as difficult to read as Cervantes for students of the language. If you think this one might work for your home or classroom, check out this video of elementary school children reviewing the book. If cost is an issue (especially with international shipping), the digital version is only $6.99 on iTunes at the time I’m writing this. That said, the book is really designed for children, so I’m holding out for a copy they can hold and touch.
Am I missing any great children’s adaptations of the classic Spanish novel? You know I’d love to have another 2 (or 20) to try.