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The Daydreamer

The Daydreamer

4.7 15
by Ian McEwan, Anthony Browne (Illustrator)

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"Peter Fortune is a dreamer . . . [and here are seven of] his fabulous daydreams. Each is a separate adventure, [among them] taming a bully and catching a burglar, and young readers should have no trouble empathizing with his escapades. A delightful blend of serious whimsy and hilarious gravity."—SLJ. "How would it feel to swap bodies with a cat, with a baby,


"Peter Fortune is a dreamer . . . [and here are seven of] his fabulous daydreams. Each is a separate adventure, [among them] taming a bully and catching a burglar, and young readers should have no trouble empathizing with his escapades. A delightful blend of serious whimsy and hilarious gravity."—SLJ. "How would it feel to swap bodies with a cat, with a baby, with a grown-up? To be those creatures and still have your ten-year-old consciousness? British author McEwan writes a simple, visual prose––comic, deadpan, and lyrical––that captures the physicalness of [this] wild fantasy."—BL. "A rare find." —VOYA.

1995 Notable Trade Books in the Language Arts (NCTE)
Best Books 1994 (SLJ)
100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (NY Public Library)

Author Biography: Ian McEwan received the Somerset Maugham Award for his first collection of short stories, FIRST LOVE, LAST RITES. This was followed by another collection, In BETWEEN THE SHEETS and the novels The Child in Time; The Cement Garden; The Comfort of Strangers, which was nominated for the Booker Prize and is now a major motion picture; The Innocent, soon to be a major motion picture starring Anthony Hopkins; and most recently, Black Dogs. Mr. McEwan lives in Oxford, England with his wife and their four children.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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
Hazel Rochman
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
“Imaginative and sparkling, not a page should be missed.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

“As far-fetched and funny as anything by Roald Dahl.” —Vogue

“Combines wit and invention with a sense of the natural order being overturned.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Peter’s fantasy life is richer than anybody’s since Walter Mitty.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Brilliant . . . the quality of imagination at play here is something special.” —The Times Educational Supplement (London)

Product Details

Knopf Canada
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt


Introducing Peter

When Peter Fortune was ten years old, grown-up people sometimes used to tell him he was a difficult child. He never understood what they meant. He didn't feel difficult at all. He didn't throw bottles at the garden wall, or tip ketchup over his head and pretend it was blood, or slash at his granny's anklewith his sword, though he occasionally thought of these things. Apart from all vegetables except potatoes, and fish, eggs, and cheese, there was nothing he would not eat. He wasn't noisier or dirtier or more stupid than anyone he knew. His name was easy to say and spell. His face, which was pale and freckled, was easy enough to remember. He went to school every day like all other children and never made that much fuss about it. He was only as horrid to his sister as she was to him. Policemen never came knocking at the front door wanting to arrest him. Doctors in white coats never offered to take him away to the madhouse. As far as Peter was concerned, he was really quite easy. What was difficult about him?

It was not until he had been a grownup himself for many years that Peter finally understood. They thought he was difficult because he was so silent. That seemed to bother people. The other problem was he liked being by himself. Not all the time, of course. Not even every day. But most days he liked to go off somewhere for an hour -- to his bedroom, or the park. He liked to be alone and think his thoughts.

Now, grown-ups like to think they know what's going on inside a ten-year-old's head. And it 's impossible to know what someone is thinking if they keep quiet about it. People wouldsee Peter lying on his back on a summer's afternoon, chewing a piece of grass and staring at the sky. "Peter. Peter! What are you thinking about?" they would call to him. And Peter would sit up with a start. "Oh, nothing. Nothing at all." Grownups 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 did not know what it was he was doing in there.He could have been setting his school on fire or feeding his sister to an alligator and escaping in a hot-air balloon, but all they saw was a boy staring at the blue sky without blinking, a boy who did not hear you when you called his name.

As for being on his own, well, grownups didn't much like that either. They don't even like other grown-ups being on their own. When you join in, people can see what you're up to. You're up to what they're up to. You have to join in, or you'll spoil it for everyone else. Peter had different ideas. Joining in was all very fine in its place. But far too much of it went on. In fact, he thought, if people spent less time joining in and making others join in, and spent a little time each day alone remembering who they were or who they might be, then the world would be a happier place and wars might never happen.

At school he often left his body sitting at its desk while his mind went off on its journeys, and even at home daydreaming could sometimes get him into trouble. One Christmas Peter's father, Thomas Fortune, was hanging the decorations in the living room. It was a job he hated. It always put him in a bad mood. He was wanting to tape some streamers high in one corner. Now, in that corner was an armchair, and sitting in that armchair doing nothing in particular was Peter.

"Don't move, Pete," said Mr. Fortune. "I'm going to stand on the back of your chair to reach up here."

"That's fine," Peter said. "You go ahead."

Up onto the chair went Thomas Fortune, and away in his thoughts went Peter. He looked like he was doing nothing, but in fact he was very busy. He was inventing an exciting way of coming down a mountain quickly using a coat hanger and a length of wire stretched tight between the pine trees. He went on thinking about this problem while his father stood on the back of his chair, straining and gasping as he reached up to the ceiling. How, Peter wondered, would you go on sliding down without slamming into the trees that were holding up the wire?

Perhaps it was the mountain air that made Peter remember he was hungry. In the kitchen was an unopened box of chocolate cookies. It was a pity to go on neglecting them. just as he stood up, there was a terrible crash behind him. He turned just in time to see his father fall headfirst into the gap between the chair and the corner. Then Thomas Fortune reappeared, headfirst again, looking ready to chop Peter into tiny bits. On the other side of the room Peter's mother clamped her hand across her mouth to hide her laughter.

"Oh, sorry, Dad," Peter said. "I forgot you were there."

Not long after his tenth birthday Peter was entrusted with the mission of taking his seven-year-old sister, Kate, to school. Peter and Kate went to the same school. It was a fifteen-minute walk or a short bus ride away. Usually they walked there with their father, who dropped them off on his way to work. But now the children were thought old enough to make it to school by themselves on the bus, and Peter was in charge.

It was only two stops down the road,, but the way his parents kept going on about it, you might have thought Peter was taking Kate to the North Pole. He was given instructions the night before.

The Daydreamer. Copyright © by Ian McEwan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of seventeen books, including the novels NutshellThe Children ActSweet ToothSolar, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize; On Chesil BeachSaturdayAtonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award; The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both short-listed for the Booker Prize; Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize; and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award; as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets.

Brief Biography

Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
June 21, 1948
Place of Birth:
Aldershot, England
B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

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Daydreamer 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was great I loved it. I read it when I was ten and it has stayed in my mind ever since. the main character's daydreams became mine with that book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From reading this book it made me think a lot about what a little 10 year old boy daydreams about. Its a very interesting book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It made me think about all the daydreaming I do. Although my daydreaming isn't always as fascinating as Peter's! If you want an adventure and a laugh this is a MUST READ. I have 9 and 11 year old cousins and I just can't wait to read 'The Daydreamer' to them! It had me smiling from ear to ear!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Peter Fortune is a quiet boy, but his active imagination, revealed in his daydreams, yields fascinating tales with perceptive insights. Each chapter can stand alone as a story. Right now, I'm reading it as a parent visitor in my fourth-grader's library period, chapter by chapter. The kids seem to love it. But don't be fooled; it's as much for grownups as for kids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi i am spiritfury i am a white shecat with blue and black spots. I am 22 moons old and i love to hunt. Oh and my eyes are grayish green
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gender: Tom Pysical description: pelt is the color of honey and eyes are green. Strong and thoughtful. Personality: please get to know me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name:Silverpaw. Type:warrior apprentice. Mate:none. Crush.none. Description.silver with a white stomach and long sharp dagger like claws. Eyes.blue. Other.often desived by her looks. Exact image of her momther yet acts like her father. <p> Name.Spottedpaw. Type.med cat apprentice. Mate.none. Crush.none. Description.tortoiseshell with a white belly and tail tip. Eyes.blazing green. Other.sweet hearted yet can fight and hunt. Same claws as Silverpaw. Same image as her father yet acts like her mother. <p> Update later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! READ NOW!!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
You wouldn't belive how good it was. I told my friends to read it and they loved it. All the stories in it came alive wehn I read it.