The Dreamer

The Dreamer

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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
  • Scholastic US
  • New York, NYUnited States
  • English
  • colour illustrations
  • 0439269709
  • 9780439269704
  • 264,865

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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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About Pam Munoz Ryan

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 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

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