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Cover image for The dreamer
The dreamer
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, 2010.
Physical Description:
372 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
Reading Level:
650 L Lexile
Added Author:
A fictionalized biography of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who grew up a painfully shy child, ridiculed by his overbearing father, but who became one of the most widely-read poets in the world.


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Pura Belpré Award Winner

A tender, transcendent, and meticulously crafted novel from Newbery Honoree, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and three-time Caldecott Honoree, Peter Sís!

From the time he is a young boy, Neftalí 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, Neftalí knows he cannot ignore the call. He listens and follows as it leads him under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain on an inspiring voyage of self-discovery that will transform his life and, ultimately, the world.

Combining elements of magical realism with biography, poetry, literary fiction, and transporting illustrations, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís take readers on a rare journey of the heart and imagination as they explore the inspiring early life of the poet who became Pablo Neruda.

Author Notes

Author Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in Bakersfield, California on December 25, 1951. She received a B. A. in child development and a M. A. in education from San Diego State University. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a bilingual Head Start teacher and as an early childhood program administrator. At first, she wrote adult books about child development, but soon switched to writing children's books.

She has written over twenty-five picture books, novels, and nonfiction books for young readers. The novel Esperanza Rising, winner of the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, and the Americas Award Honor Book, is based on her own grandmother's immigration from Mexico to California. Riding Freedom has also won many awards including the national Willa Cather Award and the California Young Reader Medal. When Marian Sang, a picture book about singer Marian Anderson, won numerous awards including the ALA Sibert Honor and NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award. In 2015 her title Echo made The New York Times Best Seller List. She also won a Kirkus Prize in the children's literature category with her title 'Echo'.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ryan's (Paint the Wind) wandering and imaginative prose and Sis's (The Wall) quietly haunting art fuse in this fictionalized account of Pablo Neruda's upbringing in the small town of Temuco, Chile. Precocious, terribly shy, and insightful, Neruda (known then by his birth name, Neftali Reyes) is curious about all facets of life, particularly the wonders of nature. "He stood, captivated, feeling small and insignificant, and at the same time as if he belonged to something much grander," writes Ryan when Neftali first sees the ocean. His role model is his uncle Orlando, who owns the local newspaper, but his domineering father has no patience for the boy's daydreaming and love of reading and writing, which ultimately provokes Neftali's passion for finding his own voice. Printed in green ink (as is the text), Sis's stippled illustrations provide surreal visual teasers for each chapter. Larger images pair with poetic questions ("Is fire born of words? Or are words born of fire?") that echo Neruda's The Book of Questions. Stressing "the importance of following dreams and staying determined," the book is an immaculately crafted and inspiring piece of magical realism. Ages 9-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

From early childhood, Neftali Reyes (a.k.a. Pablo Neruda) hears the call of words, and even his insensitive father cannot stifle the poet growing within. Ryan's lyrical novel of Neruda's boyhood begs to be read aloud, and Chiroldes is the perfect choice for this image-filled, poetic narrative. His authentic pronunciations set the story firmly in Chile; his lilting voice portrays Neftali with pitch-perfect accuracy. His voice is smooth and soothing when the child poet dreams, loud and harsh when the overbearing and cruel father enters the scene. Accompanied occasionally by the strumming of a guitar, this is a beautifully melded package of superb writing and melodic voicing. Bonus DVD with artwork by Sis included. angela j. reynolds (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Respinning the childhood of the widely beloved poet Pablo Neruda, Ryan and Sís collaborate to create a stirring, fictionalized portrait of a timid boy's flowering artistry. Young Neftalí 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 Sís' meticulously stippled illustrations, richly symbolic in their own right, complement and deepen the lyrical quality of the book. As Neftalí 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 Neftalí'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.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

Barely a chapter into this novel, readers may feel as if they're deep inside the black hold of an oil tanker - in a good way. The author painstakingly evokes a dystopian future where rising waters have submerged the Gulf Coast and salvaging scrap from ships is one of the few honest jobs left. Nailer, small for his age, is "good scavenge," but he stares at the mile-high clipper ships of the wealthy "slicing across the ocean" in the distance. He dreams of being on one: the ambition to bring down the system they represent comes later, amid an epic storm and a screen-ready chase scene. SHARK VS. TRAIN By Chris Barton. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Little, Brown. $16.99. (Ages 3 to 6) Who will win the face-off between two favorite toys: the shark or the train? (A dinosaur must be waiting in the wings.) Lichtenheld's high-energy drawings are the main appeal in a series of contests that could have built to more drama. (The opponents bowl, trick or treat and . . . make lemonade?) At the end, two boys drop the game and break for lunch: "Next time, you're history!" as the shark says, face-first in the toy box. STUCK ON EARTH By David Klass. Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $16.99. (Ages 11 to 14) "We are skimming over the New Jersey countryside in full search mode, hunting a 14-year-old." Ketchvar III, who resembles a common snail, is here from another planet to inhabit the mind and body of "an infinitely lower life-form," an American teenager. The mission: to judge whether the human race is worth saving. A witty and penetrating satire of American life follows, as Ketchvar, having taken over Tom Filber, burrows into a typical unhappy suburban family and high school. It's easy to sympathize with both of them. THE DREAMER By Pam Muñoz Ryan. Illustrated by Peter Sis. Scholastic. $17.99. (Ages 9 to 14) Ryan's hypnotic text, inspired by the childhood of Pablo Neruda, is brought to life by the extraordinary art of Peter Sis. Image after image - a locomotive in woods, an angry father in pointillist silhouette -give shape to the imagination of a lonely boy, Neftalí. Ryan captures the way in which the world is a dream to him; even the numbers in his math homework "hold hands in a long procession of tiny figures" before they fly through the window and escape, just as he one day will. THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS By Marianne Malone. Illustrated by Greg Call. Random House. $16.99. (Ages 8 to 12) Malone's first novel is a smoothly written fantasy with an appealing premise. Ruthie and Jack, best friends on a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago's Thorne Rooms - 68 perfectly realistic miniature chambers - find a magic key to get inside them. Not only can Ruthie lie in an elegant canopied bed, she can also step into the painted landscape visible through the window ("Being outside in 18th-century France felt surprisingly normal"). There are few great surprises along the way, but the fantasy of a parallel world is irresistible nonetheless. POETREES Written and illustrated by Douglas Florian. Beach Lane. $16.99. (Ages 6 and up) Florian's richly watercolored collages, accompanied by verse, evoke a whole forest of trees. Sometimes it takes just a handful of words. "From the acorn grows the tree - slowly, slowly," he writes, as an oak fills a two-page spread, stained onto paper. JULIE JUST BEST FRIENDS A podcast with Jon J Muth and Mo Willems on creating "City Dog, Country Frog," at

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-9-Pam Munoz Ryan's fictionalized biography (Scholastic, 2010) of Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda is lovingly read by Tony Chiroldes. Named Neftali at birth, he lived with his disapproving widower father in central Chile. Frail as a child, Neftali was always dreaming and examining the natural world around him. His tyrannical, pro-government father wanted his son to pursue a medical or teaching career, neither of which interested the boy. As a teen, Neftali began an apprenticeship with his uncle, a newspaper printer, who encouraged the boy and published his essays in his newspaper. Impressed by other poets who advocated government reform, Neftali enrolled in a university to better learn the craft of poetry. To keep his passion a secret from his father, he carefully chose a pen name, Pablo Neruda. Much of his writing was devoted to ending atrocities against humanity and promoting freedom of speech. Woven into Ryan's text is information about the plight of the Mapuche people in Chile. Chiroldes perfectly embraces the story, reading with sensitivity and, at times, poetic sound effects. His distinctive diction and calm demeanor will hold the attention of young people mature enough to be interested in the life of this remarkable man. A bonus DVD features artist Peter Sis's black-and-white pointillist illustrations from the book to accompany the recitation of two of Neruda's poems.-Jennifer Ward, Albany Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Ryan's fictional evocation of the boy who would become Pablo Neruda is rich, resonant and enchanting. Simple adventures reveal young Neftal's painful shyness and spirited determination, his stepmother's love and his siblings' affection and his longing for connection with his formidable, disapproving father. The narrative captures as well rain falling in Temuco, the Chilean town where he was raised, and his first encounters with the forest and the ocean. Childhood moments, gracefully re-created, offer a glimpse of a poet-to-be who treasures stories hidden in objects and who recognizes the delicate mutability of the visible world, while the roots of Neruda's political beliefs are implied in the boy's encounters with struggles for social justice around him. Lines from a poem by Ryan along with Ss's art emphasize scenes and introduce chapters, perfectly conveying the young hero's dreamy questioning. The illustrator's trademark drawings deliver a feeling of boundless thought and imagination, suggesting, with whimsy and warmth, Neftal's continual transformation of the everyday world into something transcendent. A brief selection of Neruda's poems (in translation), a bibliography and an author's note enrich an inviting and already splendid, beautifully presented work. (Historical fiction. 9-13)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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