The People’s Poet

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People
By Monica Brown
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
(Henry Holt and Company, 2011,New York, $16.99)

Perhaps the best way to relate a poet’s life is through poetic language, if not verse. In Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, Monica Brown and illustrator Julie Paschkis use lyrical prose and muralesque, surreal images to convey the Chilean poet’s passion and courage to young readers. The book traces Neruda’s journey from a shy, little boy in love with nature to a brave man who defied an oppressive regime for the people he loved.

In this picture-book biography, words and illustrations intertwine to evoke Neruda’s evolving artistic and social consciousness. A vivid writer, Brown describes “words that whirled and swirled” and “velvet cloth the color of the sea.” If Brown’s prose is visual, then Paschkis’ illustrations are verbal: Spanish and English words appear on leaves, petals, rocks, and ocean waves, suggesting the richness of both Neruda’s poetry and the landscapes and cultures that inspired him.

The youngest children will pour over Paschkis’ illustrations; older kids will enjoy reading the words inside the images. But Pablo Neruda, like poetry itself, is a feast of language and imagery to be read aloud and shared.

Dorothy A. Dahm

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