Archive | April, 2012

The Dreamer by Pamela Munoz Ryan

29 Apr

The Dreamer won the Pura Belpre award for 2011. It’s a lovely book, a biography of Pablo Neruda ne Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto the Chilean poet and politician. The book focuses on his childhood, which despite his father’s ruthlessness seems magical. His stepmother allowed him to find the magic. His brother, who showed promise as a singer, had his spirit crushed by his father. But Neruda, despite his frail build, had the wherewithal to stand up to his father, to survive his childhood in the sparse Chilean city of Parral, in the Linares province.

Ryan focuses on highlights of his childhood – a summer at the beach, his struggles in school, his facility with writing, and his stepmother and step-uncle who show him love and affection. Neruda happens to be one of my favorite poets, and I love the Italian movie, Il Postino (in Italian with English subtitles). As an adult, I was very interested in this book. However, I can see the limitations to this beautifully written book. It’s about an author that most children are unfamiliar with, even Latino children. Being able to identify with a sickly, extremely literate and scholarly child from 100 years ago might be a stretch. Be that as it may, it is a wonderful book. The book is lush and full of imagery. It could be interesting to read about a child from a different time, who is bullied and picked-on as so many children today are. And it could awaken a love of poetry and words and language.

His poetry is wonderful. And if this book is a stepping stone to that, that is enough.