Pam Munoz-Ryan's novel THE DREAMER, depicting the childhood of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, is not the type of book I normally find myself picking up.
So rewind to April of 2010. I'm scanning the rows of books at my public library when this book jumps out at me. Looking at the cover I immediately thought of Lois Lowry's THE GIVER for some reason. I pulled the book off the shelf and checked it out. Having not heard of the story (or even read the inside jacket flap) I hopped online to see if it would be worth my time. What I discovered disappointed me.
Sadly, I had never heard of Pablo Neruda, or read any of his poetry. I don't dabble in nonfiction too often (even though this isn't exactly straightforward nonfiction) and instantly feared this wasn't the right book for me. But, the rave reviews intrigued me, I opened up to the first page, and was lured in by the dreamlike description of the falling rain outside little Neftali's window.
If someone was ever to write a book capturing my life in words, I could only hope that it be as creative, artistic, and thoughtful as this is. The author's respect for the subject is quite obvious in the care she takes in telling his delicate story. The way Neftali slips in and out of reality is seamless. The vivid sensory details allow the reader to see the world through Neftali's eyes, in a way so unique and unlike anything I've ever read. I especially like the way the author ends each section with thought provoking questions, in the same style of Pablo Neruda's poetry (The Book of Questions).
At one point in the book I questioned whether or not children would be able to appreciate the beauty in Pam Munoz-Ryan's work. Would the high page count turn readers away (384 pages but very large font)? Would children find the artistic elements of the author's style too much? I think in the end, there is just so much in Neruda's story to engage young readers. The message is surely something all kids can relate to. And I love when Neftali questions how he can be "absentminded" when there are so many thoughts in his head!
One of my favorites this year. Glad I "accidentally" stumbled upon this! Final grade: A