The Dreamer (Ala Notable Children's Books. Older Readers)

by Pam Munoz Ryan

Hardcover, 2010



Call number

Fic Rya

Call number

Fic Rya

Local notes

Fic Rya





Scholastic Press (2010), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages


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.

Original publication date


Physical description

384 p.; 6.5 x 1 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member edspicer
Ryan, Pam Muñoz. (2010). The Dreamer. New York: Scholastic Press. 373 pp. ISBN 978-0-439-26970-4 (Hardback); $17.99 (reviewed from galley copy).

Neftalí, as the title informs, is a dreamer. Frustrated by numbers, especially the lazy zeroes and nines that stay stuck to the page, Neftalí lives in
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fear of his father. His brother Rodolfo has had all his music driven away from him by Father who calls it useless noise. Father rails at Neftalí for his incessant daydreaming. Father works for the railroad and is determined that his children will not struggle as he did, even if it takes abusive measures like forcing his children to learn to swim in the cold, wild ocean. If they are toughened up, they will be able to survive. He does not appreciate skinny, weakling children. He wants physically strong children who grow up to study useful things like business and medicine. It is Neftalí’s stepmother, Mamadre who fills Neftalí with stories and dreams. Eventually, with the help of his uncle Orlando, Neftalí begins working at a press, where he begins to make a name for himself with his writing. This, however, is Chile and the political situation is beginning to take turns for the worse. Such is the life of young Pablo Neruda. Using Neruda’s Book of Questions as the inspiration for the story structure, Ryan has a gorgeous book that is her best writing to date (and her earlier work is award winning). The language is magical and it rests upon a very real, often sad story. A testament to the power of language, The Dreamer is certain to garner honored spots on lists, starred reviews, and awards in January 2011. This book is appropriate in elementary school libraries, middle school libraries, and even high school libraries (although high school readers will certainly notice the increased font size, the reduced text on the page, and the illustrations). Any reader of any age who loves poetic language, well-crafted story, layers of meaning, and a book that will stay with you for a very long time should pre-order copies of The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan today! An added bonus, not completely realized in my galley review copy, will be the illustrations by the Caldecott Honor winning artist, Peter Sís! Don’t miss this one!
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LibraryThing member marifab64
I think this was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. The story was wonderful and the characters were amazing. When I become a teacher if I had to chose a book for my class to read I think this would be a great choice because there are many things being taught in this story.
LibraryThing member CatheOlson
LibraryThing member amandacb
Neftali is, and always has been, different—he sees the beauty in everyday objects (like pinecones and stones) and his imagination takes flight at the slightest whim. Neftali’s father dislikes these behaviors very much and discourages his son from reading too much or from writing—and Neftali
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is a very gifted writer.

Neftali, living in Chile during a time of extreme civil unrest, siphons all of his emotional confusion and pain into dreams and writing. Even when his father burns all of his notebooks, it does not deter Neftali from following his dream of becoming a writer. He eventually makes his way to the university, where his studies to become a poet, taking the pen name of Pablo Neruda, a poet who celebrates the beauty in the common and in his country.

Written in an absorbing mix of prose, poetry, and art, The Dreamer portrays the struggles a young Neruda experienced and how it affected his writing. The lush descriptions of the countryside are juxtaposed with the harsh realities of the political unrest, all subjects which Neruda tackled in his poetry.
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LibraryThing member johnstod
Ryan's poetic text truly gives the feel for Neruda, Chile's most famous poet. I love that his poetry is interspersed through the story. She has captured the voice of the young Neftali in constant wonder of the natural world. She also reveals the pain inflicted on himself and his two siblings by the
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very dominant father.
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
This is a fictionalized biography of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. It tells how he grew up as a shy child with an overbearing father, and found his way through words.
LibraryThing member kimby365
Maybe my craziness shows when I say this book seemed like it would be nearly impossible to do well, but I am going to be completely honest. The idea of a fictionalized biography sounds like just about the worst type of book in history. It is hard to make an interesting story that can basically be
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described like this: "He wanted to be a writer, so after long years of torment and disapproval, he did." (I know that book after book after book follows that same pattern, but work with me here.) And to reduce the great Pablo Neruda to formula like that? Sacrilege, some would say. Fear not, those with a similar mindset: "The Dreamer" is an amazing book.

How amazing, you ask? Well, in my review of "Mockingbird" I said I would most likely not be able to find a book that would affect me more strongly and touch me right down to the very core of my emotional being. If "The Dreamer" doesn't top it, it at least matches "Mockingbird" for me. This is, and will remain, without a doubt one of the best books of 2010.

This is a book lover's book, through and through. Though I am one of those unfortunate souls who never encountered a book by Pam Munoz Ryan before this one came along, I have no reason to doubt the many, many laudatory things said about it. When I read this book, I was THERE, in that world. Everything was brighter and more acutely observed that I may have noticed in the real world, in real nature. That, my friend, is the sign of a good writer.

Also a sign of a good writer: characters that, for better or worse, are distinctive and memorable. What young, book-loving, daydreaming, sensitive child (or teen, or adult) wouldn't be able to relate to young Neftali, even on a basic level? This is a kid who the reader will undoubtedly be rooting for from the very beginning, and not just because his home life is just shy of torture more often than not. The character of the father, a horribly strict and insensitive man, is ferocious and terrifyingly real, if portrayed as one-dimensionally evil at first. I am forever grateful that my parents, whatever their faults, were never any less than totally supporting of my goals in life, and this book cements that idea in my mind. As for the other characters, they're definitely likable and real and all, but the only memorable presence aside from Neftali and the Father, is Uncle Orlando. It is unsurprising that he fueled the young future poet's goal to use words in a way that would make people listen.

It is hard to think of an immediate flaw in this book, which I suppose is a good thing but does not suit me for this review. Frankly, the only problem that I can think of is that it may be TOO much of a book lover's book for everyone. If your love of the written word does not rival that of Neftali, you may not be as enamored of it as I was. Still, a book like this one should probably have that as its flaw; Pam Munoz is clearly in love with the written word and it shows on every page. This is, quite simply, an outstanding work of literary art, and it deserves to be read and reread by young and old for many years to come.

(Note: I didn't mention the illustrations, by Peter Sis, and I am aware of that. I didn't think I could write a whole big chunk about them, and I think that the words here are more important than the drawings. Regardless, they are lovely, as expected from the master illustrator, and they definitely add something to the book.)
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LibraryThing member skstiles612
This is the story of Neftali Reyes Known to the world as thepoet Pablo Neruda. As a young boy, Neftali's mind wandered and he questioned everything around him. His domineering father considered him "absentminded", "dim-witted", and "idiot" He dictated what he expected his sons to become. Somehow
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Neftali finds his own way. As he grows older he takes on, through his writing the cause of the Mapuche people. The Indigenous people of Chile. The words flow throughout this book creating an image in the mind that is enhanced by the drawings by Pepter Sis. This is a book that you not only read, you feel it.
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LibraryThing member twonickels
When you see The Dreamer sitting on a shelf, you will want to pick it up and hold it in your hands. From the shimmering cover that invites you into the universe of Neftalí’s head, to the thick paper that feels perfect under your fingers, to the calm green color of the ink, to the tiny
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illustration of an acorn that greets you on the title page, this is a book full of small treasures. In a story that is about taking delight in the smallest details, kudos to the designers who made the physical object of this book reflect the subject matter so beautifully.

Neftalí’s family lives under the shadow of his domineering father, a railroad man. Happy family moments are stopped cold by the sound of the train whistle that announces Father’s impending return. Rodolfo, Neftalí’s older brother, has already abandoned his dreams of studying music and becoming a singer, and Father is doing his best to railroad Neftalí onto the same path of leaving dreams behind and pursuing the future of Father’s choosing. But while Neftalí appears to be a weak, vulnerable child, he has hidden reserves of strength and stubbornness.

Munoz-Ryan does a wonderful job of capturing the nuances of Neftalí’s character. His compassion and curiosity are almost overwhelming, and they often get the better of Neftalí’s desire to please his authoritarian father. His fascination with words is woven into the text as he plays with their sound and meaning. The story is episodic, and the scenes are well chosen to crystallize the moments that made Neftalí into Neruda, but they also hang together well to tell a story of a shy young man with a highly developed sense of wonder. One of this book’s greatest strengths, in terms of getting it into the hands of children, is that it easily stands on its own as a novel. There is no need to know anything about Pablo Neruda to appreciate this book – in fact, there is no need for a reader to even know that it is based on a true story. While being aware of Neruda’s life certainly adds layers of resonance to this book, the story will be enjoyed by anyone who can appreciate Neftalí’s struggles and his unique outlook. The selection of poetry in the back of the book, which includes several of Neruda’s poems that directly address some of the pivotal moments in the book, is expertly chosen to appeal to young readers and may convince some young readers to seek out more.

While Munoz-Ryan’s telling of Neftalí’s childhood is wonderful, the collaboration with Peter Sis makes the story sing. Each chapter begins with three small pictures on a single page, each picture showing some scene, feeling, or object that will be important to the text. These tiny drawings echo the small treasures that Neftalí collects, and they evoke the fascination with the world around him and the attention to detail that define Neftalí. Larger drawings, all in Sís’ characteristic stippled style, illustrate the fantastical ways in which Neftalí sees his world while also working in relevant lines from Neruda’s poetry (edited to add – please see Pam Munoz-Ryan’s correction in the comments – these lines of poetry were written by her, not Pablo Neruda.). These drawings are full of wonder, but also very evocative of Neftalí’s feelings in that moment – whether that is fear of his father looming up above the sea, sadness and protectiveness of a hurt swan, or the excitement of traveling and making new friends. Sís’ drawings do with ink lines what Neruda’s poetry does with words – they crystallize feelings and experiences down to their essence, conveying them in briefly but completely. They complement the story, and the poetry, beautifully. Asking Peter Sís to turn Pablo Neruda’s imagination into visual form was a stroke of genius, and one that will give young readers an additional window into the world of his words.
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LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
Neftali is scorned by his overbearing father for his imagination and his daydreaming. Key episodes in his childhood and teen years lead up to his eventual break from his father's oppression as he heads off to study poetry in college.

This irritated me the same way as Anne of Green Gables - child me
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was always frustrated that these imaginative characters seemed to have much better dream lives than I did. I also found the jumps forward in time disconcerting. But from the summer at the beach, I was rooting for Neftali, no matter how much I wanted to shake some sense into him sometimes.

I came at this book without knowing anything about it, and so it was some time before I realised it was based on a real person. I knew almost nothing about Pablo Neruda. I also didn't know that Peter Sis was involved, so I listened to the audiobook - I assume I missed some splendid illustrations. I did really enjoy Tony Chiroldes' accent - especially when he read the poetry.

I'd give this to tweens interested in poetry, as it is a great jumping off point into the real politics and poetry associated with Pablo Neruda. Also a nice companion to stories about horrible fathers, especially when you need a cheerful ending. Actually, I'd give it to Anne of Green Gables fans to see if it captures the feel of a writer's imagination.
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LibraryThing member oapostrophe
I'm a bit over the top about this book. I loved it. Neftali the sickly young boy who loves nature and words feels the disapproval of his over-bearing railroad-worker father. This is a fictionalized story of the childhood of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The physical book is so lovely from the
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beautiful cover and the intersticial illustrations by the wonderful Peter Sis, to the green ink, to the size itself. A treasure.
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LibraryThing member olivegreen1
Historical and fantasy about the early life of Pablo Neruda, set in South America, reads like a magical fairy tale. Evocative and poetic language, we are drawn to this character and support him in his quest for psychic survival.
LibraryThing member Inky_Fingers
This is called a "fictionalized biography" of the poet Pablo Neruda, and the style will be familiar to those who have read a lot of the recent excellent picturebook biographies, many of those also illustrated by Sis. It seems to me that it would fit perhaps young middle graders, since the style is
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simple, but the relationships are dark and complex and often frightening. This would be the best match for a young poet because one of the strengths of the book is the sense of wonder and discovery about the world, and how this is translated into words.

Winner of the 2011 Pura Belpre Award from the ALA for "a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."
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LibraryThing member DianeVogan
This book is so well put together. The childhood of poet Pablo Neruda is told in the form of a long poem. The parts of his life chosen for the story relate to the poetry that he wrote (which the author was considerate enought to add at the end of the book). This story makes us care about boy and
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his dreams to be his own person. Peter Sis adds magical illustrations to bring the dreams alive.
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LibraryThing member Amberpopoola
awesome book about a kid looking for hope.
LibraryThing member copad2thing
In this novel Neftali 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. He knows he cannot ignore the call.
LibraryThing member EuronerdLibrarian
Slow, especially for a children's book, not particularly captivating, don't see the child appeal at all, but a nice story with nice illustrations.
LibraryThing member KimReadingLog
Before Pablo Neruda was a famous poet, he was Neftalí Reyes, a slight of frame dreamer of a boy who could never live up to his authoritarian father’s exacting rules and expectations. Muñoz and illustrator Peter Sis weave together a dreamlike story, chronicling the pivotal experiences of
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Neftalí’s childhood using a combination of carefully chosen phrases, poetic questions, and delicate illustrations. Booklist says, “This book has all the feel of a classic, elegant and measured, but deeply rewarding and eminently readable.” Once you read this story, you will know without a doubt that Neftalí Reyes was born to be a poet.
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LibraryThing member cmesa1
Pam munoz does a fabolous job to take the reader onto the Life Of Neftali Reyes now known as Pablo Neruda one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. The winner of the Nobel prize. What I like the most of this book is that it reflects how some many of our children are and sometimes that do not
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cultivate their againts because they are afraid or they might believe what adults with tell him. In Neftali's case he did not believe the things that his mean father will say to him. He will keep dreaming . He always found beauty and wonder in everything colors smells textures.
This to me is magic to be Elbe to be connected with the wonderful things tht sourounds us and transmit that to words.
That is what Neftali did . He as a great example for all of us to keep dreaming and the bigger the dream the better.
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LibraryThing member gjchauvin504
Though written for children, it is a story readers of all ages will find much value in: a tale of perseverance and poetry, family and power, art and identity, written in Ryan's sure and slightly unconventional hand. She asks her audience to ponder with Neftalí questions such as, "Where is the
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heaven of lost stories? Who spins the elaborate web that entraps the timid spirit? What wisdom does the eagle whisper to those who are learning to fly?" Peter Sis's drawings that accompany the tale are airy and fantastical a perfect illustration of Neftalí's thoughts and experiences.
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LibraryThing member esquetee
It took me two false starts to finally get into this book. It's dressed up as a sort of children's story, but it needs to be about half as many words and twice as many illustrations, in my mind. The book is a sort of retelling of Pablo Neruda's childhood and adolescence, using some anecdotes from
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Neruda's own letters and interviews, with some fiction thrown in. But it takes way too long to get where it's going. There were some beautiful snippets of Neruda's poetry scattered here and there but the book didn't feel like it held together very well. I think only die-hard fans of Neruda's poetry will appreciate it and everyone one else will be bored.
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LibraryThing member JenJ.
Neftali knows what it is to be different. He is not strong like his older brother. He is not cheerful like his little sister. He doesn’t like sports like the other boys at his school. No, Neftali is a dreamer. He is a boy who gets lost in observing the natural world around him, a boy who is
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absorbed in listening to the sounds that surround him every day, a boy who thrills to the fire for justice he sees in his newspaper-writing Uncle Orlando’s verbal fights for the oppressed. Yes, Neftali knows what it is to be different – but Neftali’s father – Neftali’s father does not know what it is to be different and does not, will not, understand. Neftali dreads his father’s footsteps and the dissatisfaction that always follows: “Do you want to be a skinny weakling forever and amount to nothing?” Every time Neftali’s father tries to stamp out Neftali’s hopes and dreams there is that chance that they will be gone forever. Every time Neftali has to find the courage and inner strength to be true to himself – sometimes with more success than others – but Neftali keeps trying, keeps working to figure out who he really is instead of just being what his father wants him to be and in the end, Neftali finds that who he is, is someone truly amazing.

The Dreamer is the fictionalized retelling of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood. Written in green ink, just as Neruda wrote his poetry, Pam Munoz Ryan’s text is rich with details and imagery of the natural world that Neruda loved and Peter Sis’s soft, pointallistic illustrations offer the perfect complement to this quiet coming-of-age tale.

When I read this, it mostly struck me as being not my kind of book at all, but it's stuck with me better than I expected so I'm upgrading my rating by one star.
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LibraryThing member jennycheckers
The moment I finished reading The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís (2010), I wanted to throw open my window and announce to the world to stop what they are doing and read this book right away! Granted the Pura Belpré Award in 2010, The Dreamer tells the tale of
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young Neftalí Reyes who perseveres through a difficult childhood and finds his love for words, eventually transforming into Pablo Neruda. Magic realism infused throughout the story allows us glimpses into the brilliance of this famous poet, and Peter Sis's fantastical drawings take us even deeper into his thoughts and experiences.

In the classroom, I would use this book to teach magic realism, biography, and poetry. Grades 4 and up.
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LibraryThing member mcorbink
The fiction story of Pablo Neruda growing up in Chile. It is filled with the art of poetry, words, and a young boy trying to find his way in life. Pam Munoz Ryan has never disappointed me!
LibraryThing member JeSouhaite
Recapturing the childhood of Chile’s greatest poet, Ryan spins a tale that’s poetic, atmospheric, and wondrous. Neftalí’s imagination runs free despite and autocratic father who’s trying to make him into a man. Get lost in the rhythms of the lush rain forest or the pounding waves of the
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Ages 10+
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(179 ratings; 4.1)
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