Publication date: April 2010
Neftali is definitely a dreamer. He is always being distracted by the beautiful things he sees around him - a leaf, a beetle, a pinecone. He loves to think about them and wonder at their beauty and even to write what they inspire in him. But his father is not satisfied with this. He wants his son to grow up and be successful. It is not possible to do that with your head in the clouds. Will Neftali be able to please his father and himself or will he have to sacrifice one of them?
Things I Liked:
This book was so whimsical and, well, dreamy! I loved the magical feeling that Ryan infuses throughout the story. Neftali's daydreams and beautiful collections bring interest and fun to an otherwise very painful story. This story was so sad, but also hopeful. It was heart-breaking to watch the interactions with his father and how Neftali seems never to please him, despite his sincere desire to be loved. The writing very much reflects the whimsical and magical feeling, being both poetic and simple. An interesting look at just what Pablo Neruda's childhood might have been like. Some favorite parts:
His mind wandered: To the monster storm raging outside, which startled the roof. To the distant rumble of the dragon volcano, Mount Llaima, which made the floors hiccup. To the makeshift walls of his timid house, trembling and cowering from the roar of passing trains. To the haphazard design of the room with incomplete stairs, which might have led to a castle on another floor, but had long been deserted in the middle of construction. p 15
How could he be absentminded when his head was so crowded with thoughts? p 73
Neftali felt the river breathing beneath him, as if keeping time to the slow and sorrowful tune. His heart filled with the beauty and the peacefulness of it all. He felt as if he were on the brink of something magnificent. p 148
The rhythm of his rain-soaked childhood became a sequence of words. His memories of the understory of the great forest burst into lyrical phrases, as resinous as the sap of a pinecone, as crisp as the shell of a beetle. Sentences grew long, then pulled up short, taking on the tempo of the waves upon the shore, or swayed gently, like the plaintive song of a lone harmonica. p 344Things I Didn't Like:
I really think this is not going to have wide kid appeal. I had a hard time finishing it because it was just so strange at times. I definitely think it would have helped if I'd read some of Neruda's poetry or was more interested in him. The story is interrupted by fanciful imaginings and philosophical questions so often that I wonder if kids will lose interest. It will definitely take a special kind of child for this one.
Nothing comes to mind, except maybe The Magician's Elephant by Kate Dicamillo
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
more cruelty than true violence
Overall rating: ***
Anybody a big advocate for this title? I'd love to hear others' thoughts.
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