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The Dreamer (Ala Notable Children's Books. Older Readers) Hardcover – April 1, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4–9—Readers enter the creative, sensitive mind of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, in this beautifully written fictional biography. Ryan artfully meshes factual details with an absorbing story of a shy Chilean boy whose spirit develops and thrives despite his father's relentless negativity. Neruda, who was born Neftali Reyes, sees, hears, and feels poetry all around him from an early age. Luckily he finds understanding and encouragement from his stepmother and his uncle, whose humanitarian and liberal attitudes toward nature and the rights of the indigenous Mapuche people greatly influence his developing opinions. In early adulthood, Reyes starts using the pseudonym by which he becomes known, taking his last name from that of a famous Czechoslovakian poet. Ryan suggests that this was how he hid his activities from his father. Her poetic prose style totally dovetails with the subject. Interspersed with the text are poems that mimic Neruda's style and push readers to think imaginatively and visually. Sís's whimsical pen-and-ink pointillist illustrations enliven the presentation. Each chapter is preceded by three small drawings that hint at something to come. The perfect marriage of text and art offers an excellent introduction to one of the world's most famous poets. An appended author's note gives further insight into Neruda's beliefs and accomplishments. In addition there are excerpts from several of his poems and odes. This unusual selection would be a fine companion to Deborah Kogan Ray's To Go Singing Through the World (Farrar, 2006).—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Respinning the childhood of the widely beloved poet Pablo Neruda, Ryan and Sís collaborate to create a stirring, fictionalized portrait of a timid boy’s flowering artistry. Young Neftalí Reyes (Neruda’s real name) spends most of his time either dreamily pondering the world or cowering from his domineering father, who will brook no such idleness from his son. In early scenes, when the boy wanders rapt in a forest or spends a formative summer by the seashore, Ryan loads the narrative with vivid sensory details. And although it isn’t quite poetry, it eloquently evokes the sensation of experiencing the world as someone who savors the rhythms of words and gets lost in the intricate surprises of nature. The neat squares of Sís’ meticulously stippled illustrations, richly symbolic in their own right, complement and deepen the lyrical quality of the book. As Neftalí grows into a teen, he becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the indigenous Mapuche in his Chilean homeland, and Ryan does a remarkable job of integrating these themes of social injustice, neither overwhelming nor becoming secondary to Neftalí’s story. This book has all the feel of a classic, elegant and measured, but deeply rewarding and eminently readable. Ryan includes a small collection of Neruda’s poetry and a thoughtful endnote that delves into how she found the seeds for the story and sketches Neruda’s subsequent life and legacy. Grades 4-8. --Ian Chipman

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Series: Ala Notable Children's Books. Older Readers
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439269709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439269704
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
ENTER THE DREAM! Were you a dreamy kid? The type of kid that parents & teachers nagged to focus more? Do you have a child like that? If yes, you will love this book. Inspired by the life of a real poet in Chile, Pablo Neruda, the book's prose is dream-like and poetic. It is greatly enhanced by award-winning artist Peter Sís, whose delicate, drawings enhance the magical world. Finally a book that favors the right-brain people (in this left-brain culture).

The main character dreamily ponders the world while cowering from his domineering father. However, Neftali's beholding of nature, his sense of wonder and his limitless imagination cannot be bound. He persists in his dream-like approach to the world. INSPIRE YOUR DREAMY CHILD -- This book will inspire young readers, future poets and all right-brain people. It's courageous, unusual and unique.
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Format: Hardcover
The message to follow your dreams is wonderful, making poets "cool", especially those from other countries is a great idea, and Pam Munoz Ryan's questions combined with Peter Sis' drawings are fantastic such as "Which is sharper? The hatchet that cuts down the dream? Or the scythe that clears a path for another?"

My lack of enthusiasm for the book is directly related to my having lived in Chile for six years and being married to a Chilean. Chile is an interesting land of contrasts. The literacy rate is high and the interest in politics and current events is also very high. However many, not all, Chileans consider reading "anti-social", something I was chided for regularly. Unlike in the book, there was no library at a seaside town. I never found a public library in the whole country, although, I heard vaguely that there was one in the capital. A magazine/book store would be more likely. My point is that there were many cultural things that made the father who he was. He was not Dave Pelzer's mother. College entrance exams are very tough in Chile and peasants, at least fifteen years ago when I was there, were very real which tends to make fathers want better for their children. Families regularly took month vacations to the beach and the "sink or swim" swimming method made a champion swimmer out of my own husband. These aren't the best parenting techniques, of course, but I guess I would have been more comfortable if the father hadn't been a complete villain.

Also, although not as important, I wish there had been one last editing by someone from Chile. Parrots and Flamingos that far south? Potato empanadas? Meat and cheese empanadas are as common as hot dogs and hamburgers here, but I've never heard of potato ones.

All that aside though, the book is an enjoyable, magical read that teachers could certainly use as fodder for creative writing papers and/or poetry units.
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Format: Hardcover
Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet, wrote, "...my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests." In her fictionalized biography of him, Pam Muñoz Ryan asks, "Does a metamorphosis begin from the outside in? Or from the inside out?" THE DREAMER explores Neruda's childhood and the roots and inspirations of his poetry.

Neftalí Reyes was born to a domineering father, who wants his sons to be strong, powerful men of industry. But Neftalí and his older brother, Rodolfo, are creative souls more interested in books and music than math and business. Neftalí is shy, stuttering and unsure of himself, and feels most at home surrounded by nature or the many interesting objects he collects, like shiny keys, feathers and beautiful stones. His head is full of stories, and he is entranced by the rhythmic sounds of the forests, rivers and jungles. Though his stepmother tries to protect him, Neftalí is subject to his father's mood swings, strict rules and cruelty. As he grows up, inspired by his uncle, a progressive journalist and activist on behalf of the native Mapuche, Neftalí finds his voice and strength in the written word --- first in political essays and finally in poetry.

Ryan's prose is a lovely and dreamy parallel to Neruda's lovely and dreamy verses, and she tells Neftalí's story with compassion and beauty. Though Neftalí struggles with familial and social expectations, he is steadfast in his identity as someone who needs creative expression, especially through words.
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Format: Hardcover
Booktalk: Neftali looks up to his father and is eager to please him, but everything that he does just seems to disappoint him. Neftali's father disapproves of the little treasures that he stops to pick up wherever he goes: a pinecone, an old boot, a shell. His father disapproves of his slender physique, even though Neftali can't do anything about it. He is embarrassed by Neftali's stutter when his friends come to visit. But the most common reprimand Neftali hears from his father is "Stop that incessant daydreaming!" Neftali wants to please his father, but how can he stop contemplating the world when it is full of such wonders?

Rocks my socks: True to its title, this book has a lovely lyrical, dream-like quality about it that is simply charming. It reflects the personality of Neftali perfectly and this mood is enhanced by lines of verse and surreal drawings appearing regularly throughout the text. My heart went out to little Neftali and I treasured the glimpse I got into the workings of his mind. This was made all the more interesting by the fact that the novel is loosely biographical.

Rocks in my socks: While I did enjoy the dream-like quality and I think it fit perfectly with the subject matter, it did make for a slow pace. I also didn't like the way Neftali's age accelerated so rapidly at the end of the book. For most of the book he's 7 or 8 and the pace and aging follows that of a normal narrative. Then, in the third to last chapter he jumps to 11, then he's 13 in the penultimate one, then in the last chapter he's getting ready to leave for college.
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The Dreamer (Ala Notable Children's Books. Older Readers)
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