The Dreamer is a book that almost defies description. Is it poetry? Is it biography? Is it fiction? This fictional account of real life poet Pablo Neruda's childhood is all of these things. Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, he was a shy, stuttering, skinny youngster with a larger-than-life domineering father. Working with Neruda's prose and poetry, along with anecdotes of his early life, Pam Muñoz Ryan invents the thoughts, hopes and dreams of the shy young man who quietly refuses to become the man his father wishes. With beautifully poetic language, she paints a portrait of a boy determined to be true to himself. This is a book for thinkers and dreamers and poets and all children who yearn to be nothing but themselves.
A better artist than Peter Sís could not possibly have been chosen for this book. The white spaces of his signature illustrations are filled with symbolism - the image of the small and frightened faces of Neftali and his sister swimming in an ocean whose shoreline is the outline of his domineering father speaks volumes without words. Illustrations are abundant throughout the book.
An illustrated, color discussion guide is available from Scholastic. Scholastic also offers this video booktalk, but this is a book that does better speaking for itself. It must be read to be appreciated.
If you've ever searched for a story with a calm and caring stepmother, this is that book, too.
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