Once I gave a girl a copy of Pablo Neruda’s love poems. Call me the pretentious Latinx college student wanting to impress the girl.* Truth is, I never read the book. Never read anything by Neruda until a few years later when I purchased a copy of The Poetry of Pablo Neruda on a whim. Wasn’t too long until I discovered a poem that just resonated with me (and still does to this day).
There’s a certain romanticism and magic realism that marks a Neruda poem, which Pam Muñoz Ryan captures in her juvenile novel, The Dreamer. Peppered with the illustrations of Peter Sís, the novel follows young Neftalí as he tries to find his place in the world. His imagination is fueled by the books he reads. He collects words and pine cones as if they were treasures made especially for him. He loses himself in daydreams and magical worlds, which is discouraged and forbidden by his overbearing father. But the world around Neftalí is changing and fueled with violence and injustice. As he struggles to speak with a stutter, he begins to use his gift of writing to give voice for others unable to speak for themselves.
Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Pura Belpré Award winning novel gives us a peek into a world no different than ours. With a political turmoil spilling out into the streets. Where those in power are silencing the media. Where fathers force their beliefs into their children’s lives. With those who are trying to change the world do so with a pen rather than a bullet. And yet, where magic still exists. Still thrives within the pages of literature and leaves of nature. This coming of age story is a must for those seeking a book to share with the children in their lives.
Continue dreaming, dreamers. And happy huntin’.