Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena, illus. Christian Robinson
From the acclaimed author and illustrator of New York Times bestsellers “Carmela Full of Wishes” and “Last Stop on Market Street”, Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, comes a uniquely touching and poignant picture book following a young boy’s Sunday subway ride with his sister. To pass the time, Milo sketches pictures of the colorful characters he sees coming and going at each stop and imagines what their lives are like based on their appearance.
When Milo finally reach their stop he realizes another boy on the subway car, who he’d imagined lived a privileged and much different life from his own, was headed to the same destination as Milo, to visit an incarcerated parent. It’s a surprising wake up call as Milo realizes you can’t judge another person’s life or story just by looking at them.
I found the story of Milo’s subway trip with his sister as moving as it was beautifully illustrated. What could have been a predictable tale of a young boy seeing the world through a subway window, instead becomes a far richer story as de la Pena develops Milo’s imagined backstory for the various characters he sketches while traveling, and in the process reveals Milo’s superficial judgments about their lives. It isn't until after you get to know the inside of Milo's creative mind that the story reveals the surprising and poignant purpose of Milo’s trip; a visit to his mother at a women’s incarceration facility. In this highly original and beautifully illustrated story, Milo’s surprising ‘A-ha’ moment reminds readers of every age to examine the assumptions we make about others as we move through the world.
"I think it's an incredible opportunity for empathy, to see somebody who might be sitting next to you in class who has that experience, and you'll understand their reality better," de la Peña told TODAY.
"So I'm hoping that, more and more, books like 'Milo Imagines the World' are for all audiences, not just underprivileged audiences."
“-Even better than Last Stop on Market Street.” Not only is it a much-needed book for kids who make visits like Milo’s, it’s also an elegant and utterly accessible demonstration of why it’s important for us to imagine other people’s lives with empathy and compassion.