Released April 2010.
Neftali is a boy with the spirit of a poet. He loves to write series of words anywhere he can, he collects small objects like stones and keys, and he daydreams amazing adventures. He is also a boy with a father who wants him to focus on the real world and become a doctor or dentist, definitely not a writer. His father is a domineering force in his world, blowing a whistle to call him to attention and sneering at his scrawny build. Despite this, Neftali continues to dream and write, eventually becoming one of the most read poets in the world, Pablo Neruda.
Ryan’s prose is profound and exquisite. She has created here a book about a real person that takes you directly into that person’s mind, allowing a deep understanding. She has taken some of the seminal events of Neruda’s life and written scenes that sear into your mind with their beauty and importance. She writes to honor a great poet but also to allow people to understand him on a new level. Beautifully done.
Combined with Ryan’s prose, Sis’ illustrations exude a simplicity and delicacy that work marvelously with the subject matter. His illustrations verge on the surreal, taking us into Neruda’s thoughts and dreams. The illustrations are deceptive in their simplicity, revealing far more than they seem to. The partnership of these two has created something magical.
The Author’s Note at the end of the book is interesting and important. I also appreciated the inclusion at the end of some of Neruda’s poems, because readers of this book are sure to want to read his poems. I know that this book will reconnect me with his writing again.
A moving and beautiful tribute to a poet’s youth and development, this book also shines because of its focus on self-esteem, social consciousness, and individuality. I can see it being used as a read-aloud in classrooms, though part of its beauty is reading it and savoring it. Appropriate for ages 9-13.
Reviewed from Advanced Reader Copy received from Scholastic.