Milo Imagines the World

by Matt de la Peña (Author) Christian Robinson (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There's the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets.

There's the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there's the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler.

But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo--walking the same path, going to the exact same place--Milo realizes that you can't really know anyone just by looking at them.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
With the same combination of wide-eyed observation and suspenseful buildup to a socially conscious revelation that readers cherished in this duo's award-winning Last Stop on Market Street (2015), this picture book offers a child's view of the impacts of incarceration on families. De la Peña's descriptive language and Robinson's innocent, endearing art make for another winning package . . . A memorable, thought-provoking story poised to make a difference for many.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 3--The creators of the Newbery Award-winning Last Stop on Market Street team up for another journey with a life lesson on a child's level. This time, Milo and his teen sister, who are both Black, take a long subway ride together. Big sister is glued to her cell phone and bespectacled Milo draws the lives he imagines for other passengers on the train. Maybe the whiskered man doing crosswords lives all alone with parakeets and a cat. Maybe the little white boy in a suit lives in a castle. Maybe the wedding dress lady and her groom will take flight in a hot air balloon after the ir nuptials. Initially, this appears to be a story about how being observant feeds the creative process, but when Milo and his sister arrive at the prison where their mother is incarcerated, the white boy from the train is also there to visit his own mother. "Maybe you can't really know anyone just by looking at their face," thinks Milo. Robinson captures the vivacity of the New York City subway with his acrylic paint and collage and faux naïve style, while other spreads show Milo's childlike crayon drawings. The text is rich with words like tepid, mewling, and infinite, and vividly compares Milo's excitement to "shook-up soda," while the happy bride has "a face made out of light." VERDICT Pictures brimming with activity, an endearing main character, and threads for thinking about art, families, and what we see in others make this a book that will hold up to many readings.--Jan Aldrich Solow, formerly Fairfax County Public Sch., VA

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

On a long subway ride through New York City, a Black boy named Milo looks around at the other passengers. He wears glasses and an oversize hat, and carries a sketch pad. His older sister sits next to him, busy with her phone, but they feel the same mixture of emotions: "Excitement stacked on top of worry/ on top of confusion/ on top of love." Where are they going? Readers know only that the siblings take this journey once a month, on a Sunday. Working in blocky forms and warm, bright colors, Robinson creates a subway car full of distinct personalities as a tapestry of city life unspools in front of Milo. A Black woman in a wedding dress, a group of break-dancing girls with various skin tones, a jacketed white boy with neatly combed hair and spotless white Nikes--Milo imagines existences for them all, drawing in his sketchbook as readers look over his shoulder. For the boy in white shoes, Milo invents a princely existence, with a castle and servants to bring him food. But the boy gets off the same stop as Milo and waits in line at the same place, a moment that transforms Milo's view of the people whose lives he's imagined: "Maybe you can't really know anyone just by looking at their face." In this rich, multilayered journey, the award-winning creators of Last Stop on Market Street celebrate a city's kaleidoscope of scenes, offer a glimpse at a child's experience with parental incarceration, and convey that child's keen observations about his circumstances and surroundings. Ages 4-8. Agent (for de la Peña and Robinson): Steven Malk, Writers House. (Feb.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


Starred Review
Harold and the Purple Crayon meets twenty-first-century urban realism . . . As in Jacqueline Woodson's Visiting Day, the joy and parent-child love shine through . . . This poignant, thought-provoking story speaks volumes for how art can shift one's perspectives and enable an imaginative alternative to what is . . . or seems to be. 


Starred Review
Robinson intersperses scenes of his signature cut-paper collage artwork . . . with images of Milo's sketchbook, and the child-like drawings in thick crayon lines not only give insight into his imagination but his heart . . . An excellent conversation-starter for modern times. 

Review quotes

* A text that flows like poetry . . . Glorious. —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review 

Matt de la Peña
Matt de la Peña es el autor de Última parada de la calle Market, que ganó la Medalla Newbery por la edición en inglés. Es también el autor de Amor; A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, y de seis aclamadas novelas para jóvenes adultos. Matt enseña Escritura Creativa y visita colegios y universidades por todo el país para hablar con los estudiantes. Matt vive en Brooklyn, Nueva York.

Christian Robinson recibió en el 2016 Mención de Honor Caldecott y Mención de Honor Coretta Scott King por su arte en Última parada de la calle Market, en inglés. Ha ilustrado los libros de la serie Gaston and Friends; Leo: A Ghost Story; School's First Day of School; The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade; Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker; y muchos otros.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
February 20, 2021
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Selection 2022

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