Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis

When he was in his teens, Neftali Reyes chose a pseudonym, Pablo Neruda, in order to avoid confrontation with his father when his work appeared in publications. Neftali was a shy, daydreaming boy, bullied by his father. In this fictionalized biography for children, Pam Munoz Ryan uses narrative prose, magic realism and poetry to evoke Neruda's childhood in Chile. Czech artist Peter Sis contributes surreal illustrations that enhance the feeling of what it was like to grow up awkward around people, yet full of curiosity about the natural world. He was fascinated by beetles, pine cones, clouds... everything except his schoolwork. A summer trip to the seashore should have been heavenly, but Neftali's father had an ulterior motive: to toughen up his weakling son and young daughter. The two children were forced to spend hours in the ocean, struggling to keep from drowning. Neftali managed to defy his father and snuck away to read in the afternoons. I admired his strength of spirit.

The book is a pleasure to read. Scholastic Press 2010 USA edition is printed in green ink on cream paper with wide leading between lines. It can be enjoyed by readers from Grade 4 up to adult. A selection of Neruda's poems appear at the back.

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