What an amazing evening this has been. I picked up Pam Munoz Ryan's THE DREAMER (Scholastic, April 2010) and fell into the world of Neftali, the dreamer. A stick of a boy, Neftali is fascinated with the world around him from the plopping of the rain that leaks into buckets under his ceiling, to the bugs that resemble jewels, to the bits of ordinary flotsam that most of us walk past and never note. However, being a dreamer is not prized by his father who chastises Neftali for his weakness. Neftali takes the words flung at him, collects them, and then uses them to craft his own works. Ultimately, Neftali assumes a pseudonym: Pablo Neruda.
Pam Munoz Ryan has fashioned a novel that is dreamlike while still staying rooted in the brutal reality of Neftali's life. Her words soar as do Neftali's dreams and visions. Part poetry, part traditional narrative, part incredibly wondrous questions (Is fire born of words? Or are words born of fire?) that reflect Neruda's "The Book of Questions"), this is a story that must be shared, a tale that sings to the heart and the soul. And a lovely bonus: illustrations by Peter Sis.