Rave Reviews Log: Historical Fiction

July 02, 2010

The Dreamer

By Pam Munoz Ryan
Era: Early 20th century Chile
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

This is a fictionalized biography of Pablo Neruda, one of the greatest poets to come out of Chile.  As a child, he was known as Neftali Reyes.  Neftali is sickly and always daydreaming, fascinated by words and by collecting small treasures outside.  His father is a powerful figure about town, always entertaining, and he has big plans for his sons.  Art, music and writing are not for his children!  No, they will get a good education and become doctors or lawyers or businessmen.  But Neftali cannot help but wonder and dream.  As he gets older, he tries to please his father, but Neftali only ends up feeling his cruelty and control.  Then he begins to win praise for his writing, even getting one of his essays published in the newspaper and earning an apprenticeship under her revolutionary-minded uncle at his uncle's newspaper.  But still, Neftali's father does not approve, and never takes his side.  Can Neftali ever find the courage to defy his father and do what he wants to do the most--write poetry?  Readers will be drawn into the author's poetic turn of phrase and by Peter Sis' frequent illustrations throughout the story and will wish for Neftali to finally win against his father.  A strong story that will enrich those who choose to read it.