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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

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"Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world." --Elisabeth Leseur

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Don Quixote for Young Readers?

Maureen asks:
I have 12 and 13 yo boys and would love some book recommendations. Is Don Quixote appropriate for their age group? They are voracious readers, and I find we're on the brink of children's and adult books. Thanks for any advice.
What a great question! One of my favorite things to do is recommend books. First, concerning Don Quixote: In sixteen years of teaching junior high students, I only recall three students who read Don Quixote all the way through, but each of them really enjoyed it.

My wife and I have a sixteen-year-old boy and a twelve-year-old boy (not to mention our two daughters ages 8 and 2), and I have to say that our sixteen-year-old who is not a habitual reader yet (sigh), would not touch Don Quixote with a twelve-foot pole; but our twelve-year-old laughs out loud whenever my wife listens to the audiobook in the car. I'm not sure he's ready to read it, but he definitely gets the humor.

One caveat: Don Quixote can be a bit risque at times, almost like a vaudeville show. It's very tame compared to society's standards (alas!), but there are a few sections where an innocent young man might come to his parents to ask what something means. Purity, honor and religion are always upheld as virtues, but there are occasional references to things like prostitutes and consummating marriages.

Finally, Part I of Don Quixote is filled with digressions, side stories, and one out-and-out novel that is inserted into the story. I happen to enjoy the side-stories, but young readers may not have the patience to read about secondary characters for long periods (and most of the side stories are love stories). However, if they can make it to the second half of the book it will be worth it. Part II was written about fifteen years after Part I, and as enjoyable and necessary as Part I is, Part II is by far the better half, in my opinion. You could even suggest that they read Part I then take a break and read something else before coming back to Part II, so they don't get burned out on too much Don Quixote.

Wow, I didn't expect to say so much about Don Quixote. But then, I do have Manchegan Madness, so I guess it's to be expected. I'll follow this post up with some book recommendations for pre-teenage and teenage boys.

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posted by Nick Senger at 5:13 AM

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