The Dreamer
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The Dreamer

By (author) Pam Munoz Ryan , Illustrated by Peter Sis

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A breathtaking illustrated novel from Pura Belpre Award winner, Pam Ryan, and MacArthur fellow and three-time Caldecott Honoree, Peter Sis! From the time he is a young boy, Neftali 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, Neftali knows he cannot ignore the call. Under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain, he listens and he follows. . . Combining elements of magical realism with biography, poetry, literary fiction, and sensorial, transporting illustrations, Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis take readers on a rare journey of the heart and imagination.

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  • Hardback | 372 pages
  • 154.94 x 193.04 x 33.02mm | 544.31g
  • 01 Dec 2010
  • Scholastic US
  • New York, NY
  • English
  • colour illustrations
  • 0439269709
  • 9780439269704
  • 263,324

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Author Information

Pam Munoz Ryan is the recipient of the NEA's Human and Civil Rights Award and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for multicultural literature. She has written more than thirty books which have garnered, among countless accolades, the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Award, and the Schneider Family Award. Pam lives near San Diego. You can visit her at www.pammunozryan.com. Peter Sis is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker with more than twenty books to his credit. His picture book THE WALL: GROWING UP BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN was a 2007 Caldecott Honor Book, and STARRY MESSENGER: GALILEO GALILEI and TIBET THROUGH THE RED BOX were Caldecott Honor Books. Peter Sis lives in the New York City area. You can visit him at www.petersis.com.

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Review quote

The Horn Book - March/April 2010 [STAR] The Dreamer by Pam Mu\u00f1oz Ryan; illus. by Peter S\u00eds Intermediate, Middle School As Neftal\u00ed Reyes enters university, his wrathful father forbids wasting time on his useless \u201chobby\u201d: writing. So he fashions a pseudonym: \u201cPablo\u201d from Paolo, in an Italian poem; \u201cNeruda\u201d after a Czech writer. The name fits like a suit: \u201cThe lapels were the width that he liked. The color was soft enough not to offend, but bright enough to be remembered. The name was not only a perfect solution, it was a perfect fit.\u201d Perfect indeed, like the union that resulted in this novel: the subject, poet Pablo Neruda (1904-73), the Chilean Nobel Prize winner; Ryan, the author who re-creates Neruda\u2019s spirit and sensibility; and S\u00eds, the Czech-born illustrator whose escape from oppression (see The Wall, rev. 9/07) so hauntingly resembles Neruda\u2019s struggle for creative freedom. In Ryan\u2019s perceptive reconstruction of the poet\u2019s early years, Neftal\u00ed, at eight, is already at loggerheads with an autocratic father who prohibits all creative activities, even reading. Fortunately the boy is unquenchable--a lover of words, books, and ideas; a collector of the small, lovely objects that will always figure in his imagination. The forest yields natural treasures--a pinecone he trades for a toy sheep, a lifelong talisman. At the beach (where Father forces him into the terrifying waves) are shells and a sympathetic librarian who offers him a hideaway for reading. There he feeds a pair of swans who are later shot by a hunter--a tragedy that symbolizes his own frustrations and sorrows while also bonding him more closely with his loving stepmother and sister. The passing years nourish mind and heart with telling incidents: a girl Neftal\u00ed admires recognizes his hand in the love letters a bully forces him to write; with a beloved uncle, he defends indigenous Chileans. Poetic interludes, inspired by Neruda\u2019s Book of Questions, heighten each event\u2019s significance: at the swans\u2019 death (\u201cWhich is sharper? The hatchet that cuts down dreams? / Or the scythe that clears a path for another?\u201d); after Father burns Neftal\u00ed\u2019s papers (\u201cWhere is the heaven of lost stories?\u201d); on becoming Pablo Neruda (\u201cDoes a metamorphosis / begin from the outside in? / Or from the inside out?\u201d). S\u00eds\u2019s introspective, emotion-charged drawings spring naturally from this lyrical account of a difficult childhood. Many of his quiet compositions are surreal visions: tiny, frightened children peer up from the ocean waves that dapple their implacable father\u2019s outlined form; a child, vulnerably naked, rides a winged pen that resembles a swan in flight. Such imagery adds a dimension of magical realism to a text in which Neftal\u00ed\u2019s imaginative inner world is so often confronted with a harsher external reality, even while it is nurtured by kindness and natural beauty. Conflicts, injustice, and a promised future make the story compelling; S\u00eds deepens it with dozens of provocative images. Neatly crafted vignettes presage each chapter\u2019s events; visual imagery extends Ryan\u2019s poems on open spreads of sea and sky; paths beckon and exquisite details reflect the dreamer\u2019s maturing imagination, clothing this masterful tribute in art that fits it as ineluctably as Neruda\u2019s new name suited his purpose. An author\u2019s note and several of Neruda\u2019s poems are appended. JOANNA RUDGE LONG

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Customer reviews

Artsy Elements a Bit Forced But a Good Read

Reason for Reading: I wouldn't have read this if I hadn't received a review copy but Ryan is the author of one of my son's favourite books that he has had read to him multiple times, Riding Freedom, and I love Peter Sis' artwork. Besides, I always enjoy a good biography, even children's fictional biographies. The poetry angle did worry me though as I am not a fan of poetry in general (except for the silly, rhyming kind ala Shel Silverstien and specific epic poems). This tells the story of Neftali Reyes' childhood, better known by his pen name Pablo Neruda, a great 20th century poet and winner of the Nobel Prize, though I've never heard of him before. And quickly sums up his adulthood in the closing chapters. The last pages include a sampling of his poetry. He had a rough, some would call abusive childhood. A mother who died 2 months after his birth, he and his two siblings were raised by a domineering father who had no patience for daydreaming or idleness. He had worked himself up from poverty and expected his sons to have careers that he never had the opportunity for himself. The eldest son wanted to be a singer, and this was driven out of him brutally by the father who set him up as a businessman after sending him to college. His plans for Neftali were even loftier, expecting him to be a doctor. But Neftali fell short of his expectations in every aspect, being a thin, gangly, weak, sickly child who daydreamed, collected bits and pieces of detritus and loved to write. His father tried everything in his power to drive this creativity out of him, but with the encouragement of a newspaperman Uncle he was able to hold on to his ambition, deep down, until he escaped his father's influence. He did change his name though to save his father from the embarrassment of publicly having a poet and government dissident for a son. The story of Neftali's life is very interesting and the book reads with a gentle poetic flow, in keeping with its subject matter. The book has been printed in green ink as that is how Pablo Neruda himself liked to write. The author Pam Ryan has inserted her own short poetry here and there and the illustrations are accompanied by poetic questions in the form of Neruda's own "The Book of Questions". This will all be a bonus to poetry lovers especially those familiar with Neruda himself. Not liking artsy poetry myself, it didn't appeal to me but didn't bother me much either. Also the author has used magical realism to delve inside Neftali's imaginative, daydreaming personality writing his fantasies as if they were indeed happening. For instance, there is a scene where he finds a rhinoceros beetle in the forest for the first time and is fascinated with it, as he watches it, it grows larger and larger until it kneels down its front legs and offers itself to Neftali who then climbs aboard and sets off for a ride through the forest. I am a big fan of magical realism but this didn't work for me in this book as it just came across as a device the author was using to make the book even more artsy and poetic. There are several such episodes but they are not overwhelming. Overall, I really did enjoy the story of Neftali Reyes' childhood and would read his memoirs or a non-fiction biography if I happened to cross paths with them but I was not overly impressed with the artsy-f*rtsy ingredients added to this book and would have much preferred a straight historical fiction. Critics, I'm sure will love the book for its artfulness though.show more
by Nicola Mansfield

Reviewed by Kira M for TeensReadToo.com

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.show more
by TeensReadToo