Platero and I - Juan Ramón Jiménez, Eloïse Roach
A poet (Juan Ramón Jiménez), a donkey (Platero), a town in the Spanish countryside (Moguer). The author wanders with Platero, eating figs and quinces from the trees, resting in the shade, observing the animals and the people (mostly poor and ragged), and finding beauty everywhere. He describes what he sees in short chapters of rich language. He addresses most of his remarks to Platero, his best friend. Perhaps because the donkey's innocence helps him see innocently.

The author seems to have money but isn't one of the town's respected citizens; the children run after him shouting "Crazy-man!" He believes in Heaven but doubts that you can get there by kneeling in a dark church listening to a grey priest, and therefore stays away on Sundays. The one thing the Catholic church provides that he really appreciates is processions, with colorful banners, fancy costumes, flowers, music, and everything. Black donkeys, ravens, and pitch-darkness give him the creeps. He dislikes large groups of people and loves children; children are everywhere in this book.

I like the chapter "The Locked Gate" -- it's so true that looking through a gate at fields and a road you've never taken makes them seem wonderful; it's no wonder that the poet never goes through the gate even though it's not actually locked. There's also a chapter about the effect of seeing and hearing ordinary things from the height of a rooftop. All in how you see it. Sunlight is always changing its effect according to the time of day, the season, or whether you look at it hazily illuminating the depths of a pool or speckling the leaves of a tree.

I didn't have a clue what to expect when I began reading this book, so it's a delightful surprise.

Translated by Eloïse Roach; with drawings by Jo Alys Downs.