Neftalí is a dreamer, always looking for objects to treasure. When special things happen to him, his imagination takes him away on a wave or a cloud. But his father constantly berates him, calling him an absent-minded idiot. As Neftalí grows, he finds that the poetry he sees in the world around him must escape in words. Despite his father’s wishes, he is a poet.
Part biography and part celebration of art, The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan is written for middle grade readers and tells the true story of the childhood of the Nobel-Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda. Not only does The Dreamer urge children to be what they can be, even if parents or peers are discouraging them, it also opens up the world of poetry. Everyday things, from a pinecone to a caterpillar, become magical when one sees them through a new lens.
Besides that, by reading about this boy, children relate to an historical poet. Ms Ryan’s afterword includes a few semi-autobiographical poems by Neruda. Reading the book as an adult has inspired me to read more Neruda; I can only imagine the young reader’s response would likewise include some interest. Neftalí is such a likeable character.
I read The Dreamer (published 2010 buy Scholastic) after reading Pam Allyn’s suggestion for it in Your Children’s Writing Life. I second the suggestion. I found it to be a wonderful story as well as an inspiring one that may help children gain an interest in poetry.