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The Dreamer

The Dreamer

4.6 5
by Pam Munoz Ryan, Peter (ILT) Sis

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Pura Belpré Award Winner

A tender, transcendent, and meticulously crafted novel from Newbery Honoree, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and three-time Caldecott Honoree, Peter Sís!

From the time he is a young boy, Neftalí hears the call of a mysterious voice. Even when the neighborhood children taunt him, and when his harsh, authoritarian


Pura Belpré Award Winner

A tender, transcendent, and meticulously crafted novel from Newbery Honoree, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and three-time Caldecott Honoree, Peter Sís!

From the time he is a young boy, Neftalí hears the call of a mysterious voice. Even when the neighborhood children taunt him, and when his harsh, authoritarian father ridicules him, and when he doubts himself, Neftalí knows he cannot ignore the call. He listens and follows as it leads him under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain on an inspiring voyage of self-discovery that will transform his life and, ultimately, the world.

Combining elements of magical realism with biography, poetry, literary fiction, and transporting illustrations, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís take readers on a rare journey of the heart and imagination as they explore the inspiring early life of the poet who became Pablo Neruda.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Quattlebaum
…Pam Munoz Ryan not only hits the highlights of the poet's young life but, through her careful research, exquisite writing and whimsical poems, brings readers into Neruda's curious, sound-enthralled mind…The book is beautifully designed, too, with thick, creamy pages printed in green (Neruda's ink color of choice) and graced by Peter Sis's delicate, pointillist drawings. It's a marvelous object to touch and hold, an apt tribute to a poet enamored of things.
—The Washington Post
Julie Just
Ryan's hypnotic text, inspired by the childhood of Pablo Neruda, is brought to life by the extraordinary art of Peter Sis.
—The New York Times
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
When this duo teams up you can be sure you are in for perfection. Neftali Reyes is a quiet, introspective boy who daydreams and makes lists of words and sounds that speak to him. He has a fondness for nature and collects treasures like rocks, bird feathers, shells, and leaves. His father, a bully of a man, deems him a weakling and embarrasses him with public admonitions. Neftali idolizes his Uncle Orlando, a newspaperman who writes and demonstrates openly about the plight of the Mapuche people of Chile. His is a man Neftali's father has little regard for. Through poetry and sparse but eloquent language the reader journeys with Neftali from his childhood to his days at university where the sensitive young man changes his name to Pablo Neruda. Events in Neruda's life are chronicled in a seamless whole. This book will require a sympathetic and compassionate reader to handle the painful events in the young boy's life—from the cruelty of his father, the death of the injured swan Neftali so tenderly cares for, and his terrifying fear of the ocean that his father demands that he conquer. There are also moments of joy as when Neftali spends a quiet boat journey making friends with a Mapuche boy, time spent with his younger sister Laurita, and the supportive moments spent with Uncle Orlando. Each chapter ends with thoughtful questions posed by the boy such as "Which is sharper? The hatchet that cuts down dreams? Or the scythe that clears the path for another?" or "Where is the heaven of lost stories?" These difficult and thought provoking questions will take a special reader to internalize and digest. As a class read with a teacher, this could open the way for deep discussions. Sis'ssignature style is seen in the countless black-and-white stippled drawings scattered throughout that extend and accentuate the story—even though not all the art was available for viewing because this was an uncorrected proof. This style of writing is a departure for Munoz Ryan as she employs elements of biography and poetry to celebrate this one life. Excerpts of Neruda's poetry is appended that hopefully will lead middle schoolers to pursue more, especially his Book of Questions. This is a story that speaks to the senses and surely will open the hearts and minds of perceptive readers. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
Kirkus Reviews
Ryan's fictional evocation of the boy who would become Pablo Neruda is rich, resonant and enchanting. Simple adventures reveal young Neftali's painful shyness and spirited determination, his stepmother's love and his siblings' affection and his longing for connection with his formidable, disapproving father. The narrative captures as well rain falling in Temuco, the Chilean town where he was raised, and his first encounters with the forest and the ocean. Childhood moments, gracefully re-created, offer a glimpse of a poet-to-be who treasures stories hidden in objects and who recognizes the delicate mutability of the visible world, while the roots of Neruda's political beliefs are implied in the boy's encounters with struggles for social justice around him. Lines from a poem by Ryan along with Sis's art emphasize scenes and introduce chapters, perfectly conveying the young hero's dreamy questioning. The illustrator's trademark drawings deliver a feeling of boundless thought and imagination, suggesting, with whimsy and warmth, Neftali's continual transformation of the everyday world into something transcendent. A brief selection of Neruda's poems (in translation), a bibliography and an author's note enrich an inviting and already splendid, beautifully presented work. (Historical fiction. 9-13)
Publishers Weekly
Ryan's (Paint the Wind) wandering and imaginative prose and Sís's (The Wall) quietly haunting art fuse in this fictionalized account of Pablo Neruda's upbringing in the small town of Temuco, Chile. Precocious, terribly shy, and insightful, Neruda (known then by his birth name, Neftalí Reyes) is curious about all facets of life, particularly the wonders of nature. “He stood, captivated, feeling small and insignificant, and at the same time as if he belonged to something much grander,” writes Ryan when Neftalí first sees the ocean. His role model is his uncle Orlando, who owns the local newspaper, but his domineering father has no patience for the boy's daydreaming and love of reading and writing, which ultimately provokes Neftalí's passion for finding his own voice. Printed in green ink (as is the text), Sís's stippled illustrations provide surreal visual teasers for each chapter. Larger images pair with poetic questions (“Is fire born of words? Or are words born of fire?”) that echo Neruda's The Book of Questions. Stressing “the importance of following dreams and staying determined,” the book is an immaculately crafted and inspiring piece of magical realism. Ages 9-14. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

Awards and Praise for The Dreamer:

Pura Belpré Award winner

Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor

Booklist Editors' Choice

NYPL 100 Best Children's Book

ALA Notable Children's Book

IRA Notable Children's Books for a Global Society

Kirkus Best Children's Book

Pen Center USA Literary Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature

*“An immaculately crafter and inspiring piece of text and art.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review

*“. . . rich, resonant and enchanting.” --Kirkus, starred review

*“The perfect marriages of text and art.” --School Library Journal, starred review

*“ This book has all the feel of a classic, elegant and measured, but deeply rewarding and eminently readable.” --Booklist, starred review

*“[A] masterful tribute.”–Horn Book, starred review

“Ryan's hypnotic text, inspired by the childhood of Pablo Neruda, is brought to life by the extraordinary art of Peter Sis.”–New York Times Book Review

“A phantasmagorical rumination on the childhood of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is rooted in a belief that words possess the power to mend the spirit and change the world.”--Smithsonian Notable List

VOYA - Judith Brink-Drescher
Neftali Reyes is indeed a dreamer, a young boy easily distracted by an old discarded boot, a wayward umbrella, an oddly shaped stone, or even a pinecone. Items like these he proudly displays, while other treasures containing words he has written on small scraps of paper remain hidden away—words that even a stuttering boy finds beautiful and manageable, especially when applied to stories or poetry. Neftali's father has no tolerance for such idle thought and considers his writing a meaningless distraction. He demands his son knuckle down and become something sensible, like a businessman, doctor, or dentist. Over time, Neftali matures from a somewhat frail boy into a thin but confident young man and begins to question and resent the limited nature of his father's belief system. Ultimately, and in an effort to remain true to his own convictions, Neftali develops a few ideas of his own. Fictionally based on the childhood of Pablo Neruda (1904—1973), this book artfully weaves known facts into a tale that depicts the early years of this internationally renowned poet. Infused and alive with nature, drama, mysticism, and grace, this story easily captures the imagination that transports the reader in a way many books aspire to but few attain. Each notable in their own right, the award-winning dream-team collaboration of Munoz-Ryan and Sis has resulted in a marvelous montage of story telling, poetry, and illustration. The Dreamer should readily appeal to both genders, as well as young and old alike. Reviewer: Judith Brink-Drescher
Laura Codron
Young Neftali Reyes is a shy child who can never meet his father's expectations, nor can he stop himself from daydreaming about all the wonders he finds in the simple world around him. With an overbearing father and social conflict stirring in his small Chilean town, Neftali must find sources of strength in unlikely places and actions. Based on the childhood of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda (born Neftali Reyes), Ryan paints a tale about a sensitive boy trying to make sense of the world and stand up for what he feels is right. The tale is laced with Neruda-like poems and delicate, whimsical drawings that augment the sense of wonder, magic, and beauty in the young poet's thoughts and imaginings. Additional information about Neruda and excerpts of his works are included, adding insight to the life and accomplishments of one of the world's most read and renowned poets. Reviewer: Laura Codron
School Library Journal
Gr 4–9—Readers enter the creative, sensitive mind of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, in this beautifully written fictional biography. Ryan artfully meshes factual details with an absorbing story of a shy Chilean boy whose spirit develops and thrives despite his father's relentless negativity. Neruda, who was born Neftali Reyes, sees, hears, and feels poetry all around him from an early age. Luckily he finds understanding and encouragement from his stepmother and his uncle, whose humanitarian and liberal attitudes toward nature and the rights of the indigenous Mapuche people greatly influence his developing opinions. In early adulthood, Reyes starts using the pseudonym by which he becomes known, taking his last name from that of a famous Czechoslovakian poet. Ryan suggests that this was how he hid his activities from his father. Her poetic prose style totally dovetails with the subject. Interspersed with the text are poems that mimic Neruda's style and push readers to think imaginatively and visually. Sís's whimsical pen-and-ink pointillist illustrations enliven the presentation. Each chapter is preceded by three small drawings that hint at something to come. The perfect marriage of text and art offers an excellent introduction to one of the world's most famous poets. An appended author's note gives further insight into Neruda's beliefs and accomplishments. In addition there are excerpts from several of his poems and odes. This unusual selection would be a fine companion to Deborah Kogan Ray's To Go Singing Through the World (Farrar, 2006).—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

Product Details

Perfection Learning Corporation
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Pam Muñoz Ryan is the recipient of the Newbery Honor Medal and the Kirkus Prize for her New York Times bestselling novel, Echo, as well as the NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Award and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for multicultural literature for her body of work. She has written more than thirty books for young readers. Her celebrated novels, Echo, Esperanza Rising, The Dreamer, Riding Freedom, Becoming Naomi Léon, and Paint the Wind, have received countless accolades, among them two Pura Belpré Awards, a NAPPA Gold Award, a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and two Americas Awards. Her acclaimed picture books include Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride and When Marian Sang, both illustrated by Brian Selznick, and Tony Baloney, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, as well as a beginning reader series featuring Tony Baloney. Ryan lives near San Diego, CA with her family.

Peter Sís is a Hans Christian Anderson Award winner, a three-time Caldecott Honoree, a Sibert Award winner, and a MacArthur Fellow. He is the illustrator of Pam Muñoz Ryan's The Dreamer, a Pura Belpré Award winner, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, and an ALA Notable. Sís's many celebrated picture books, including Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei, Tibet Through the Red Box, and The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, are treasured by readers all over the world. His most recent picture book, Ice Cream Summer, was hailed by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review as “an encomium to summer, to the power of learning, and to that beloved, creamy-cold treat.” When Peter isn’t traveling the globe eating ice cream, he creates picture books and fine art that can be seen in galleries, museums, and public spaces from New York to Los Angeles, London to Prague, and lots of cities in between. Visit Peter online and learn more about his award-winning books at www.petersis.com.

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Dreamer 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
LauraFabiani More than 1 year ago
I have just discovered a talented author-Pam Munoz Ryan. Her simple yet powerful way of conveying the story about Neftalí, a young uncommon boy who sees the world in a unique and magical way, touched me deeply. Based on the biography of Pablo Neruda, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, this book is inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan's beautiful poetic writing that stirred my imagination to the point where I was soaring with Neftalí in the blue sky, running with him in the lush Chilean forest, feeling the mist of the tangy seawater on my face, and smelling the earthy scent of the outdoors after a summer rainfall. Neftalí, a child who is a poet and humanitarian at heart, gentle and kind, but sickly thin and shy has to suffer the cruel ridicule of his authoritarian father who wants to break his soft spirit and make a strong man out of him. Fortunately, he has a loving stepmother and an Uncle who unwittingly feeds his eager soul, and he grows to become a determined influential writer with no ill will toward his father. I loved this character. He reminded me in so many ways of my own son. His strength of character and determination to nurture his love for words and to use his gift for the good of mankind is inspirational. Ryan ends each chapter with a thought-provoking question such as, What wisdom does the eagle whisper to those who are learning to fly? These string of words left so innocently on a page with a black and white illustration reflected what the chapter itself conveyed and always left me thinking hard. My only regret is that I did not read this book together with my 9 year-old daughter to get her impressions and to share with her this touching and stirring tale.
lauren_21 More than 1 year ago
Like most books this author writes, pulls the reader into the story. You can feel how the main character, Neftali Reyes, reacts when his abusive father speaks towards him, or says he should stop day dreaming and think about real jobs for his future. Neftali is a talented writer, but is unable to pursue his dreams, or is he? Read this very realistic novel and find out if his father allows him to dream.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Neftali Reyes is quite the dreamer. He is easily distracted by old boots, unusual umbrellas, or odd-shaped objects. With a stutter that sometimes gets in the way of expressing himself verbally, Neftali starts writing. His father wants him to get his head out of the clouds and become something sensible, like a doctor, a dentist, or a lawyer. Can Neftali find a way to get his father to accept him for who he is? Will he hold true to what he holds dear? A touching, quick fictionalized biography based on the childhood of Pablo Neruda (born Neftali Reyes). The characters seem believable, and the story is inspirational and does a great job of helping readers relate to Neftali, who grew up to be a Nobel Prize-winning poet. Those who like historical fiction, biographies, and stories about writers' childhoods will enjoy reading THE DREAMER.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago