Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2013
Lovely, well-and-artfully-written, if sometimes anguishing to read, memorable tale of young Pablo Neruda -- in the chrysalis stage. So worth a few hours and the layout, spare and wondrous artwork by Peter Sis added to create a thoughtful treasure, spun in a poetic prose form.
Let me say that I am a "biased-by-pleasure-and-admiration" fan of Pam Munoz Ryan and of Pablo Neruda, so that is the basis from which I come; I like/love much that these two people have contributed to the writing/reading world, each in her/his own way.
I find Pam Munoz Ryan to be an author of deep worth, with a special, artfully-delivered and thoughtful voice, so good for our children -- when her writings are chosen with care for age and maturity, as her subjects she tackles are not uniformly "easy".
I can imagine reading The Dreamer -- and sharing many reflective moments -- with a child of at least 11 (I would say, no younger). Also, I can conceive of a teacher of deep sensitivity and caring carving out the time to share it with her/his class, thoughtfully, over some days, with plenty of time for discussion, contemplation and, perhaps making it a part of a history-English block, as well.
No easy story, in the painful aspects of much of Neftali's/Pablo's young life, but so worthwhile; should spark further reading of Neruda (by older young people and adults), some exploration into Chile, human rights considerations...
If offered appropriately, age and maturity-wise, I think this would speak so well to the artistic, tender hearts of young people who love to read, to write and create; who perhaps are trying to find their ways in relating to Life, adults, insecurities, shyness, being understood and in treasuring and protecting -- and, finding "safe" ways to share -- their personal uniqueness and gifts.
I would offer again, however, that I'm not certain that this is a book to be shared with very tender-hearted children until parents/teachers feel they are able to handle the pages and pages of beauty "imprisoned" especially in the hardness, unkindness, fear-driven and apparently unfeeling aspects of the father. There is certainly opportunity to discuss what a "healthy" family environment might look like, how people (such as the loving stepmother, the talented older brother, the younger sister, the uncle) "make do", try to survive, or show courage and resolve in dealing with (or not) fear-inducing dysfunctional family relationships.
In The Dreamer, there is redemption; there are many opportunities for personal reflection and for hearing Neftali's/Pablo's singing heart-within-the-pain; I found there to be beauty on every page.