The Dreamer, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

The Dreamer.  By Pam Muñoz Ryan. Illustrated by Peter Sis.  Scholastic Press, 2010. 372 pages. $17.99

Plot: A fictionalized biography of celebrated poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood, The Dreamer is magical and beautiful with pointillist pen and ink drawings that combine with the t4ext to create a poetic and graceful novel.  Pablo Neruda was born Neftalí Reyes in Temuco, Chile.  Neftalí is a dreamer.  He has an active and creative imagination and often has his head in the clouds.  He finds beauty in everyday things and appreciates the magnificence of the natural world around him.  But Neftalí’s father doesn’t approve of Neftalí’s dreaming.  His father is strict and overbearing, demanding and cruel, and Neftalí does his best to stay out of his father’s way.  His father wants him to excel in school and eventually become a doctor, but school is not Neftalí’s favorite place.  Neftalí is soft spoken, gentle, and slight in stature.  He is sensitive and becomes involved in fighting for social justice for the indigenous Mapuche people.  With his heart in writing poetry and his father’s disapproval for what he considers idleness, what is Neftalí to do?  How does he become Pablo Neruda?

Review: The Dreamer is fictional story about a poet, which itself contains poetry similar to the poet’s and the illustrations depict the poet’s imagination as well as create a visual poetry themselves.  This book is unique.  The illustrations tell part of the story.  The prose, written in third person but basically from Neftalí’s perspective, flows smoothly and draws the reader in.  There is something about the act of reading the book that makes the reader part day dreamer as well.  The book includes a note from the author about her inspiration for the story as well as few selected poems by Pablo Neruda.

Genre(s): Magical Realism, Fictionalized Biography, Poetry

Reading/Interest Level: 9-14 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook

ISBN: 978-0439269704

Subjects: Chile, poets, poetry, growing up, social justice, hopes, dreams, family, activism

Selected Awards: 2011 Pura Belpré Author Award, 2010 ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers, 2010 Kirkus Best Children’s Books