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Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

“Maybe you can’t really know anyone just by looking at their face.”

The newest book by author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street and Carmela Full of Wishes) is masterful. It is a picture book that begs the reader to slow down, to look, to think, and to feel. The story questions our perceptions of people and the world around us.

Milo and his older sister board a subway train on a Sunday morning. To stay busy and to keep his “shook-up soda” feeling from bursting, Milo watches the people and imagines the worlds they live in. He sketches the whiskered man going to his lonely home with his cats. He imagines the boy in a suit lives in a castle with a drawbridge, and the woman in a wedding dress is off to her ceremony in a grand cathedral.

As Milo’s sister stares at her phone, ignoring him, he begins to wonder what others imagine about him. When they arrive at their stop, Milo is surprised to see that the boy in the suit is going to the same place that he is, and he realizes that “maybe you can’t really know anyone just by looking at their face.”

The ending of the story leaves readers and listeners gasping, yet de la Peña and Robinson scatter clues through text and pictures that keen eyes and ears might find.

My third graders did mind work during the first reading. They made predictions about where Milo and his sister were going (none were correct) and considered the characters and setting. On our second reading, we did our heart work, looking through our windows to feel the story and see inside Milo, his sister, and the other people on the train.

Student comments and questions included:

“He’s going to the airport to see his Mom.”

“His parents are divorced so he’s going to visit one of them.”

“Milo draws and imagines things like Omar in Planet Omar.”

“What did his mom do?”

“Maybe he didn’t like the picture with the breakers because it had police in it.”

“He’s a shook-up soda because he’s excited and worried at the same time.”

“Milo wants to imagine good things.”

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