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

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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

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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PAM Muñoz Ryan is the author of more that thirty books for young readers, including four beloved novels, Riding Freedom, Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, and Paint the Wind, which collectively have garnered, among countless accolades, the Pura Belpré Medal, the Jane Addams Award, and the Schneider Family Award. She lives in Southern California with her family. You can visit her at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Mehegan VINE VOICE on April 7, 2010
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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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Last Mango on May 17, 2010
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne-Marie on July 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lovely, well-and-artfully-written, if sometimes anguishing to read, memorable tale of young Pablo Neruda -- in the chrysalis stage. So worth a few hours and the layout, spare and wondrous artwork by Peter Sis added to create a thoughtful treasure, spun in a poetic prose form.

Let me say that I am a "biased-by-pleasure-and-admiration" fan of Pam Munoz Ryan and of Pablo Neruda, so that is the basis from which I come; I like/love much that these two people have contributed to the writing/reading world, each in her/his own way.

I find Pam Munoz Ryan to be an author of deep worth, with a special, artfully-delivered and thoughtful voice, so good for our children -- when her writings are chosen with care for age and maturity, as her subjects she tackles are not uniformly "easy".

I can imagine reading The Dreamer -- and sharing many reflective moments -- with a child of at least 11 (I would say, no younger). Also, I can conceive of a teacher of deep sensitivity and caring carving out the time to share it with her/his class, thoughtfully, over some days, with plenty of time for discussion, contemplation and, perhaps making it a part of a history-English block, as well.

No easy story, in the painful aspects of much of Neftali's/Pablo's young life, but so worthwhile; should spark further reading of Neruda (by older young people and adults), some exploration into Chile, human rights considerations...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on June 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet, wrote, " 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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