Pam Muñoz Ryan's The Dreamer
illustrated by Peter Sis
Book review by Isabella Thompson
Through our dreams we learn to live
I cannot say enough about this amazing little book. Interlaced with poetry and thought provoking questions, it permeates with an intoxicating lyrical finesse; a fluid rhythm of words that captivates the imagination, and erupts from the pages, warming the soul.
The Dreamer is a fictional tale created from events in the life of Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), a most influential poet and Nobel Prize winner.
Temuco, Chile is the setting for this story in which we meet Neftali Reyes (Neruda was a pen name), a frail, young boy with a strong spirit and a vivid imagination. His life is filled with wonder, appreciation and awe. He's captivated by all things in nature and fills his room with little reminders of his walks and outings.
Neftali also possesses a gift for language and thrives in the world of literature. He is a very gifted young man who finds little support in his overbearing and authoritarian father, Jose, who views Neftali's thoughtfulness and book savvy as an embarrassment.
It's unbelievable that such creativity could be discouraged and frowned upon. One must wonder what fears haunt a man who takes pleasure in controlling and forcing his wishes upon the futures of his children. And while this is a splendid read for children, parents too can learn a great deal from this book. It reinforces the importance of believing in children and sharing in their dreams.
His commitment to assist his Uncle Orlando with his newspaper brought Neftali closer to realizing his dreams as a writer. Through this endeavor coupled with an unfortunate incident that results in the burning of his uncle's shop, Neftali discovers his passions and finds within himself a strong inner core that resoundingly opposes oppression and injustice.
This book pulls you in and doesn't let go. I feel as if I shared in Neftali's every circumstance and triumph. There is a longing for him to succeed and experience the fruition of his dreams that accompanies the reader. Therefore it was a tremendous relief for me to find that Neftali remained true to his heart's desire. Review continues.
It is said that the writings of Pablo Neruda himself met people wherever they were in life and in whatever roles they occupied. This book will do the equivalent and quite likely incite within the reader a passion of their own.
The Dreamer is undoubtedly one of the best children's books that have crossed my path. While you will certainly not be disappointed, you will most definitely be touched by the words, the life and the beauty of the human spirit captured in this work.
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