Jen Rereads The Dreamer
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrator: Peter Sis
Publication Date: April, 2010
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction - Fictionalized Biography/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Neftali finds beauty and wonder everywhere: in the oily colors of mud puddles; a lost glove, sailing on the wind; the music of birds and language. He loves to collect treasures, daydream, and write--pastimes his authoritarian father thinks are for fools. Against all odds, Neftali prevails against his father's cruelty and his own crippling shyness to become one of the most widely read poets in the world, Pablo Neruda. This moving story about the birth of an artist is also a celebration of childhood, imagination, & the strength of the creative spirit. Sure to inspire young writers & artists.
What I Think: The first time I read The Dreamer I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was based on the childhood of Pablo Neruda. Pablo Neruda is a name that holds so many memories for me. My sweet grandmother has always been an avid reader. When she was little, she read every book in the local library...even the books that weren't appropriate for age when she was young. My grandmother read and read and read. She would tell us stories and jokes and recite poems and songs. I have always been amazed at how much she knew by heart. In college, my husband took a Spanish class and one of his assignments was to memorize and recite Pablo Neruda's Poema 20. I spent hours listening to him repeat the lines over and over again. And when he recited it for my grandmother she recognized it right away and started saying the lines with him. It is a wonderful memory I have of my grandmother and of my husband. After reading this book, I immediately called my grandmother and told her all about it. I was most excited to share that Pablo Neruda would write in green ink because he believes green to be the color of esperanza, which means hope. Esperanza is my grandmothers name and I believe her to be one of the smartest and most creative people I know. She's just a great woman.
I tell this story of my connection with this book because Pam Munoz Ryan brought Neftali's story to life for me in such a unique way. I didn't know much about Pablo Neruda before reading this book other than he was a very famous poet whose writing was very sensual. Reading The Dreamer helped me really connect with Pablo Neruda and helped me be able to understand his creativity and where his passion came from. I can't imagine being as creative and passionate as Pablo Neruda but being as stifled as he was by his father. The beautiful, lyrical writing seems to exude Neruda's character. I can't recommend this book enough. I think it would be great for older readers to pair with Stitches by David Small which is a autobiographical graphic novel about another artist whose father impacts his life. I can also see it paired with non-fiction text about life in Chile during the time he was growing up in the early 1900's and throughout his life. It would be interesting to look at how the culture and the government and life in general during that time period influenced his father which then impacted his life. I loved getting lost in this book again and being able to think more about his father and to try to understand him.
I did want to mention that last year around this time, our great friend, Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy reviewed The Dreamer for us and also had wonderful things to say as well. You can read her review at Kid Lit Frenzy.
Read Together: Grades 4 - 8
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 8
Read With: Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, Stitches by David Small, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Snatch of Text:
"His sense whirled and he felt giddy. He could not turn his head fast enough to absorb it all: tiny needles of light piercing the canopy, the untamed overgrowth of plants and trees, the musty smell of giant mushrooms, the crisp fragrance of pine, the sudden shrieks and flight of parrots." (p. 95)
"All morning, Neftali wandered, inhaling the scent of wet leaves, wild herbs, and cinnamon." (p. 97)
Mentor Text For: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Personal Narrative, Descriptive
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt like you wanted something or wanted to do something but someone or something held you back.
Topics Covered: Family, Friendships, Siblings, Confidence, Perseverance, Hopes, Dreams, Adversity, Stuttering, Poetry, Writing, Determination, Creativity