Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We're having a heatwave...

I don't know about you, but the heat is causing me to spend more quiet time inside with a few good books.

Yesterday I enjoyed The Dreamer a fictional biography of the early life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda written by Pam Munoz Ryan. The book is gently illustrated by award winning artist Peter Sis (who I actually met at the ALA convention). The text is printed in soft green ink, a tribute to Neruda who wrote his own poetry in green, the color of “esperanza”, hope. Visually it is a beautiful book.

Pablo Neruda became the pen name of Neftali Reyes, the book’s main character. It is a story of a boy growing up with a very strict father who is determined to lead Neftali into a future that he (the father) has planned, just as he did with his older son Rodolfo. In the process he tries to discourage Neftali’s fascination with words and dismisses his joy of daydreaming and exploring as "absentmindedness". Moments of happy times are terminated whenever the father returns home. Through it all Neftali is surrounded by the love of his stepmother and his younger sister. His talent for writing is supported by his uncle who runs the local newspaper. In one very moving episode Neftali watches as his father destroys his beloved work. Somehow, even though Neftali is portrayed as a weak, frail child he is able to muster the courage to pursuit his dreams.

When I began reading the book I did not realize it was based on a true story. I was unfamiliar with Pablo Neruda so the book prompted me to read more about him. Pam Munoz Ryan introduces some of his actual poetry at the end of the book.

I enjoyed the way the book was written and especially appreciated the simple, beautiful illustrations that supported the quiet nature of Neftali and his story. The book has a very poetical style that makes it special and unique.

A great book to read quietly on a hot, summer day! I would love to share this autographed copy (Peter Sis) with you- send me an email to borrow it.

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