Monday, January 24, 2011

The Dreamer Review

Booktalk:  Neftali looks up to his father and is eager to please him, but everything that he does just seems to disappoint him.  Neftali's father disapproves of the little treasures that he stops to pick up wherever he goes: a pinecone, an old boot, a shell.  His father disapproves of his slender physique, even though Neftali can't do anything about it.  He is embarrassed by Neftali's stutter when his friends come to visit.  But the most common reprimand Neftali hears from his father is "Stop that incessant daydreaming!"  Neftali wants to please his father, but how can he stop contemplating the world when it is full of such wonders?

Rocks my socks: True to its title, this book has a lovely lyrical, dream-like quality about it that is simply charming.  It reflects the personality of Neftali perfectly and this mood is enhanced by lines of verse and surreal drawings appearing regularly throughout the text.  My heart went out to little Neftali and I treasured the glimpse I got into the workings of his mind.  This was made all the more interesting by the fact that the novel is loosely biographical.

Rocks in my socks: While I did enjoy the dream-like quality and I think it fit perfectly with the subject matter, it did make for a slow pace.  I also didn't like the way Neftali's age accelerated so rapidly at the end of the book.  For most of the book he's 7 or 8 and the pace and aging follows that of a normal narrative.  Then, in the third to last chapter he jumps to 11, then he's 13 in the penultimate one, then in the last chapter he's getting ready to leave for college.  I felt like they were separate stories added on for the benefit of adding more biographical detail about later incidents in his life to show how he became the poet we all know, and it interrupted the flow of the narrative for me.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to readers 3rd grade and up who enjoy poetry.  It's certainly not for anyone looking for an action-packed adventure novel, but fellow day dreamers will be able to appreciate it and find a kindred spirit in Neftali.

The Dreamer  by Pam Munoz Ryan, illus. by Peter Sis

Support your local independent bookstore and buy it through Indiebound or check it out at your local library

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