A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Includes biographical information about the childhood of Pablo Neruda, born Neftali Reyes, and life in Chile in the early 20th century.
Although Neftali is actively repressed and criticized by his father for any artistic endeavors, he persists with his writing and eventually finds the strength to stand up to his father. Nurtured by his stepmother, encouraged by his uncle and older brother, Neftali grows up to champion the helpless, the indigenous people of Chile, and the beauty of nature. This book illustrates the enormous power one small person can have.
Positive Role Models
Neftali's uncle, a journalist who champions the cause of the Mapuche people of Chile, played an enormous role in enabling Neftali to continue writing against his father's will, to learn the art of journalism, and to establish the conviction and morality necessary to stand up to his father, and later his government. Neftali himself risks punishment to write, to care for injured animals, to support his uncle, and, by the age of 18 to write in support of social justice and dedicate his life to his art.
Violence & Scariness
Neftali's father is verbally and emotionally abusive, and at least once beats his older son for singing; he forces Neftali and his little sister to swim in ocean; and Neftali is forced by a bully to write love poems for him. A newspaper office is burned down to send a message.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Dreamer is a fable-like biography of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda by Pam Munoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising). It tenderly reveals the soul of an artist, a soul that may not have survived without nurturing from a stepmother and an uncle who were both brave and self-sacrificing. While the actions of his abusive father may frighten sensitive young readers, they will be heartened by Neftali's ultimate ability to stand up to his father and pursue his dreams, and the knowledge that he went on to become one of the world's greatest poets. The Dreamer vividly demonstrates the power of resilience that some children are lucky enough to embody, and may inspire others in need of it. Young readers will relate to the episode of being bullied by a schoolmate, and will relish the fact that the recipient of the love poems knows exactly who wrote them.
Is It Any Good?
Based on anecdotes from the life of Neftale Reyes (Pablo Neruda), Ryan has created a series of scenes that form an enchanting and vivid life story. inspiring and satisfying, THE DREAMER reads almost like a fairy tale, with its elements of cruelty and beauty that had an equal power over the childhood of one enormously gifted and sensitive soul. The incorporation of quotations in the form of questions that make up each illustration (by the very gifted Peter Sis) allows the story to flow effortlessly, and lifts it with the redemptive quality that seemed so strong in Neruda's character.
Beautifully done, this story could be a starting place for many discussions about the value of art and the role of an artist in society. Lyrical quotes and illustrations by Peter Sis combine to carry the story in a dream-like flow that reveals the nature of Pablo Neruda the way a flower unfolds into an incomparable object of beauty.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.