Adults will love this young adult book too. It’s a fictionalized account of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood. Munoz Ryan has a beautiful, whimsical, lyrical style that enchants and entrances the reader immediately. And, the illustrations by Peter Sis are brilliant and magical and happily make Munoz Ryan’s words dance and spin off the page into reader’s hearts.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND: Munoz Ryan went on vacation to Chile and happened to visit Pablo Neruda’s house. She was back in the states at a book signing when a fellow author told her a story about how Neruda always carried a little sheep, which was given to him by a secret friend across his backyard fence. Neruda had that sheep for a long time until he lost it in a fire, and thereafter, wherever he went, he would look in shops and toy stores for another little sheep just like it. That story so intrigued Munoz Ryan that she began researching Neruda’s childhood and soon the idea for THE DREAMER took hold. Observant readers will notice that the whole book is written and drawn in green ink. That is because Pablo Neruda wrote only in green ink, the color of “esperanza”, the color of hope.
SUMMARY: Neftali Reyes is a delicate boy with a huge thirst for adventure and knowledge. A solitary boy, Neftali spends much of his time dreaming and seeking the magic and wonders around him – in shinny mud puddles, a lost glove, the music of birds and the rain that sneaks into his room. Unfortunately, his domineering father doesn’t tolerate “stupid” fantasies and tries to make him stronger by forcing him to walk into the ocean even though Neftali can’t swim. The boy’s one escape is writing, which his uncle (his stepmother’s brother) encourages. Neftali goes to work at his uncle’s newspaper and soon becomes aware of the plight of the indigenous Mapuche, who are being pushed out of their homeland by the town’s businessmen (friends of his father). Neftali is finally free of his father’s rule when he goes away to college. There he takes on a new name – Pablo Neruda – and with his lucky sheep at his side, takes on the world.###