When our book club here at Hanshaw Middle School finished reading ESPERANZA RISING, I shared the fact that Pam Munoz Ryan had a new book out, THE DREAMER, a fictionalized childhood biography of Pablo Neruda. When our assistant principal heard that, she immediately asked to borrow it, saying, “It gives me chills just to think about it.”
My wife also adores Pablo Neruda, especially his love poetry. She’s just crazy about it. Who is Pablo Neruda, then, that he can inspire such passion and feeling about his work?
Well, Ryan has skillfully distilled his essence–what forces shaped him and gave birth to some of the best poetry of the twentieth century–into a very appealing and accessible format for children, no mean feat considering that Neruda’s actual work is more likely to be appreciated by adults.
THE DREAMER has already won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award, and will almost surely bring Ryan her second Pura Belpre Medal, but the big question is whether it will bring her much deserved Newbery recognition. Personally, I’m not sure that it’s the Medal winner, but I think it would make a fine, fine Honor book. What do you think?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at email@example.com
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