Most grownups think that 10-year-old Peter Fortune is a difficult child because he is so quiet, but through his daydreams he learns to see the world from numerous points of view. In a starred review, PW said, "McEwan's vivid and poetic writing reveals a profound understanding of childhood." Ages 8-up. (Dec.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Most grown-ups think Peter Fortune is a difficult child because he is so quiet: they ``knew that something was going on inside that head, but they couldn't hear it or see it or feel it. They couldn't tell Peter to stop it, because they didn't know what it was he was doing in there.'' Actually, he is involved in one of his great adventures: exchanging bodies with his ancient pet cat, battling a troop of dolls come to life, making his parents disappear with a vanishing cream or discovering what it is like to be an adult falling in love. Through his daydreams, Peter learns to see the world from numerous points of view. He is the only boy at school, for example, who can recognize the weaknesses of a bully and feel compassion for him. In his first book for children, McEwan ( The Comfort of Strangers ; The Child in Time ) dextrously presents a series of strange and wonderful metamorphoses. His vivid and poetic writing, celebrating the creative abilities of a gifted 10-year-old, reveals a profound understanding of childhood. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Peter Fortune, 10, is a dreamer, and not everyone understands that. He has the usual problems with teachers who think he can't do his schoolwork when he's really just been too busy dreaming up ways to save the world. However, the focus of this book is not on the boy's troubles but rather on his fabulous daydreams. Each of the seven stories following the introduction is a separate adventure, probably occurring mostly in Peter's imagination but including an unusual twist to link it to a real situation. The mood is similar to Edward Eager's Half-Magic (Harcourt, 1954). Even though the magic is presented as real in that book and as imagination here, the connections to reality leave readers feeling that something out of the ordinary has happened, even if it is not stated as such. Peter's adventures include trading bodies with his cat, taming a bully, catching a burglar, and even waking up in the dreaded world of grown-ups, and young readers should have no trouble empathizing with his escapades. Less able readers may find the descriptive writing style a real challenge, but would enjoy hearing the stories read aloud. Brown's illustrations, one per chapter, capture the eeriness of the selections. A delightful blend of serious whimsy and hilarious gravity.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
What if our worst fears (or, perhaps, our dearest wishes) actually happened? Right here in the backyard. There's a nightmarish sense of the domestic transformed in these interconnected stories about a 10-year-old loner. When Peter is quiet, it's because he's having "the weirdest" adventures in his head. They're experiences that grow out of the clutter of the kitchen drawer or the bombardment at the breakfast table. He loves his parents, but they crowd him. What would happen if he used vanishing cream? How would it feel to swap bodies with a cat, with a baby, with a grown-up? To actually, viscerally, be those creatures and still have your 10-year-old consciousness? The episode about the defeat of a bully is unconvincing, and at the end, Peter is too articulate about being on the edge of adulthood. But British author McEwan (whose prizewinning adult novels have been filmed) writes simple, visual prose--comic, deadpan, and lyrical--that captures the physicalness of the wild fantasy. The uneasiness remains. Things are put back together, but the world is not exactly right. The illustrations were not seen in galley, but there could be no better expression of Peter's vision than the kind of surreal artwork Browne has used in such books as Changes (1990), where the mundane is suddenly mad. What if . . . ?
From the Publisher
"A shivery, prickly joy". The Globe and Mail
"A classic." The Financial Post
"Mr. McEwan at his best." The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
As each chapter of The Daydreamer was completed, I read it aloud to my children. The arrangement was simple. They got the latest installment of what we called the 'Peter stories', and I took away some useful editorial content. This pleasant, almost ritualistic exchange in turn affected the writing itself, in that I became more than usually attentive to the sound of an adult voice speaking each sentence. This adult was not, or not simply, me. Alone in my study, I read aloud passages to an imaginary child (not quite, or not only, one of mine) on behalf of this imaginary adult. Ear and tongue, I wanted to please them both.
The child's needs I thought I knew instinctively: a good tale above all, a sympathetic hero, villains yes, but not all the time because they are too simplifying, clarity in openings, twists in the middle, and satisfying outcomes that were not always happy. For the adult I felt little more than vague sympathy. We all love the idea of bedtime stories -- the fresh minted breath, the wide and trustful eyes, the hot water bottle baking down among the clean linen, the sleepy glowing covenant -- and who would not have the scene carved upon his headstone? But do adults really like children's literature? I've always thought the entusiasm was a little overstated, even desperate. 'Swallows and Amazons? Beatrix Potter? Marvellous books!' Do we really mean it, do we really still enjoy them, or are we speaking up for, and keeping the lines open to, our lost, nearly forgotten selves? When exactly did you last curl up alone with The Swiss Family Robinson?
What we like about children's books is our children's pleasure in them, and this is less to do with literature and more to do with love. Early on in writing and reading aloud The Daydreamer I began to think it might be better to forget about our mighty tradition of children's literature and to write a book for adults about a child in a language that children could understand. In the century of Hemingway and Calvino simple prose need not deter the sophisticated reader. I hoped the subject matter -- the imagination itself -- was one in which anyone who picks up a book has a stake. Similarly, transformation has been a theme, almost an obsession, in all literatures. The Daydreamer was published in an illustrated edition for children in Britain and the United States, and in a more sober adult form in various other countries. There was once a tradition by which authors dedicate their books to the fates, rather in the manner of a parent sending a child out into the world. 'Goe littel booke...' this one may well settle down after all for a quiet life in a corner of a children's library, or die in oblivion, but for the moment I'm still hoping it might give some pleasure all round.
From the Trade Paperback edition.