The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan; illustrated by Peter Sis
This is the fictionalized biography of Neftali Reyes who grew up to be the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I realize that this will likely not fly of the shelves and that it may not have a wide readership among children. That said, for the child who does find it and connect with it, the experience will exceptional. Ryan has done a beautiful job capturing life through young Neftali's eyes. He perceives the world in a different way than anyone else. His brutish father sees this as only a weakness and constantly pushes Neftali to leave his day-dreaming behind and become a more active, physical boy. Angry words like "idiot", "worthless", "absentminded", "dim witted", and "fanatic" fill the boy's world. But even his father's harshness cannot stop Neftali from seeing the exquisite words in the world all around. Peter Sis's illustrations capture the struggles of Neftali and enhance the stunning beauty of this work. One touching illustration depicts the father's figure as an ocean with Neftali and his little sister bobbing lost on the waves. Lovely and touching this is a treat for the reader who enters its pages.