Book Review of The Dreamer
The Children’s Book Review
Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by Peter Sís
Ages: 9+ | 384 Pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press | ISBN-13: 9780439269988
What to Expect: Fiction, Poetry, Biography, and Nature
The Dreamer, a captivating masterpiece by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís, is a literary gem that seamlessly weaves together the enchanting tale of Pablo Neruda’s early life with poetic finesse. This work of art, honored with the 2011 Pure Belpre Award for fiction, unfolds a narrative that resonates with artists, nature enthusiasts, and readers of all ages.
At the heart of this compelling narrative is the protagonist, Shy Neftali, a remarkably gifted boy whose true calling lies in the realm of words and poetry. However, his innate talent clashes with the expectations of his father, who harbors aspirations for him to become a doctor. As the beauty of Chile’s landscapes ignites Neftali’s imagination and compels him to pen his dreams, the story takes a poignant turn. His internal strength propels him forward, and at the age of eighteen, he crafts a new identity – Pablo Neruda, a name that would later become synonymous with poetic brilliance.
Ryan skillfully blends historical accuracy with fictional elements, delivering an inspiring true story that unfolds against the backdrop of a challenging upbringing. The narrative not only delves into the complexities of familial expectations but also addresses the resilience needed to pursue one’s true passion. The portrayal of Neruda’s journey, marred by a daunting father and school bullying, underscores the triumph of artistic spirit over adversity.
The illustrations by Peter Sís are nothing short of incredible, providing a visual feast that complements and enhances the narrative. Each image offers insight into the nuances of Neruda’s life, allowing readers to connect more deeply with the protagonist’s experiences. Sís’s artistic prowess captures the essence of each chapter, enriching the reader’s engagement with the storyline. The Dreamer draws a poignant parallel to Pablo Neruda’s seminal work, The Book of Questions. The questions posed in the illustrations are inspired by Neruda’s original creation, creating a beautiful interplay between the written word and visual artistry.
In a world where creative gifts are often suppressed or misunderstood, The Dreamer stands as a testament to the power of resilience, self-discovery, and the unyielding pursuit of one’s passion. Thanks to Neruda’s inspiring journey, readers are encouraged to embrace their creative potential and share it with the world. Pam Muñoz Ryan’s narrative brilliance and Peter Sís’s evocative illustrations make The Dreamer a must-read that not only entertains but also inspires readers to nurture their dreams and express their unique gifts.
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About 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. 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 Américas 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, California, with her family.
About the Illustrator
Peter Sís is a Hans Christian Andersen Award winner, three-time Caldecott Honoree, Sibert Award winner, and MacArthur Fellow. His celebrated picture books include Ice Cream Summer, Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei, Tibet Through the Red Box, and The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. He also creates fine art that can be seen in galleries, museums, and public spaces all over the world.
Learn more at petersis.com.
What to Read Next if You Love The Dreamer
- A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos William, by Jen Bryant
- Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- The Color of My Words, by Lynn Joseph
- Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech