Respinning the childhood of the widely beloved poet Pablo Neruda, Ryan and Sis collaborate to create a
stirring, fictionalized portrait of a timid boy s flowering artistry. Young Neftali Reyes (Neruda s real
name) spends most of his time either dreamily pondering the world or cowering from his domineering
father, who will brook no such idleness from his son. In early scenes, when the boy wanders rapt in a
forest or spends a formative summer by the seashore, Ryan loads the narrative with vivid sensory details.
And although it isn t quite poetry, it eloquently evokes the sensation of experiencing the world as someone
who savors the rhythms of words and gets lost in the intricate surprises of nature. The neat squares of Sis
meticulously stippled illustrations, richly symbolic in their own right, complement and deepen the lyrical
quality of the book. As Neftali grows into a teen, he becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the
indigenous Mapuche in his Chilean homeland, and Ryan does a remarkable job of integrating these themes
of social injustice, neither overwhelming nor becoming secondary to Neftali s story. This book has all the
feel of a classic, elegant and measured, but deeply rewarding and eminently readable. Ryan includes a
small collection of Neruda s poetry and a thoughtful endnote that delves into how she found the seeds for
the story and sketches Neruda s subsequent life and legacy.
Ian Chipman"show more