The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan
AR Reading Level: 4.6
On the library stacks: Children's fiction
Awards: Booklist Editors' Choice; LMC Editor's Choice Award; Horn Book Fanfare; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors
Recommended for: Grades 4+
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is a fictionalized account of the childhood of Pablo Neruda. If you are like me and you try and read as little as possible on jacket flaps, you might miss this fact. The reader isn't told who the story is about until right near the end, but I wish I had known from the start. I'm not a poetry person by any means, but I seem to be running into Neruda a little bit lately.
Neftali Reyes is a sickly young boy living in Temuco, Chile. His father is a railway supervisor who runs his house with a stern hand and shows very little affection to his children. Thankfully, he is away much the time and Neftali has a loving step-mother and half-siblings. Neftali sees beauty in ordinary objects and is overwhelmed by nature. He loves to write about what he feels and observes, but his father despises it, insisting that Neftali become a doctor or a dentist. But Neftali has bigger dreams, both in his writing and in the political arena, which he pursues under the pen name Pablo Neruda.
This isn't my typical read, but the poetry and illustrations made this book work for me. I liked it because it was unique and got me in touch with my latent artsy side. But I'm not really sure that most kids will like it. It's a beautiful book, but I think some of the nuances will be lost on them. I kind of wish this book had been straight-up YA. I doubt younger kids are going to be exposed to this staunch communist who wrote erotic poetry until much later.
Also reviewed by: Ms. Yingling Reads ~ Novels Now ~ Your link here?
7 hours ago