Published by Scholastic on April 1st, 2010
Genres: contemporary, middle grade
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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.
This MG book was recommended to me while I was still attending school. I bought it, on sale, and put it on my shelf for a year or two. I ran across it when I was unpacking a box looking for my boots (I really, REALLY want to find my box of boots!). The cover is an instant attention-grabber for me, so I was determined to read this book when I laid eyes on it again.
Going into The Dreamer, I was very sure what to expect. The description sounded vague, and the title didn’t give anything away. After flipping through the book to peer at the length, I noticed that the font was green and there was illustrations and poetry to go along with the story. I surmised that this one was going to at least snag my attention. I wasn’t too far from the truth.
Middle Grade fiction, at times, tends to seem like watered-down YA fiction. After reading the start of the story, I began to see that this book was more involved in the emotions and the mind of the young main character, Neftali. I want to express my appreciation for a book that handles a cruel, unfortunate childhood with a delicate hand. There is just a passing topic about the child abuse, and some of the events are a tad bit uncomfortable. The author doesn’t delve too deeply into the mistreatment, and that tended to make it worse. The hints and the glimpses just show the surface, and it moved me more than reading the out-and-out actions.
The overall mood of the book is lovely, haunting, and sad. The Dreamer isn’t a book glurge, filled with emotion-manipulating techniques, but depends on the creative and profound voice of the ever-growing protagonist. I need my cry-button books every once in a while, but I also enjoy my emotions intact and left unmolested for a majority of the time. The story was neutral ground between “cry your eyes out” and “let me poke your heart a few times.”
Last, I love the culture of the book. The story is set in Chile, and the author blended in language with local culture to create a wonderful background. There is some language mixing, while I tend to enjoy, since the language barrier can, at times, hinder a story set in foreign parts (well, foreign to me). Ryan tends to favor Central American culture into her stories, and this is no acception.
If you are looking for a poetry-heavy book with a prose storyline, then I highly recommend this book.