reading log: diverse voices

Milo Imagines the World, words by Matt de la Peña & illustrations by Christian Robinson

de la Peña, Matt, and Christian Robinson, illustr. Milo Imagines the World. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021.

“What story do we want to put into the world next?” This was a question posed by Matt de la Peña to his frequent illustrator collaborator, Christian Robinson. The story, in the vein of Toni Morrison, would be the story Robinson wished he had as a child…and that his classmates and teachers had, too. It is the epitome of a diverse story.  Christian said of the book: “So I think this book has the potential to be healing, to create conversations, to create empathy and compassion.”

Milo imagines the world, words by Matt de la Peña and pictures by Christian Robinson, is evocative of Last Stop on Market Street as the title character takes a ride on public transit with his older sister.  Along the ride, Milo, beanie on head, sketchbook in hand, imagines the lives of all the people he encounters on the trip, observing from behind his glasses and pencil. As we arrive at Milo’s destination, where he goes to visit his mother, who has been incarcerated, we – like Milo – are forced to face implicit biases and second guess our first impressions. Can you really tell who someone is, just by looking?

The text moves slowly like the train, asking us to slow down amid the hustle and carefully contemplate those around us, rather than dismiss and disregard.  The pictures which swap back and forth between spreads of the train and spreads of the world as Milo imagines it for each passenger. This picture book offers a look at stressors and anxieties that some children quietly face, and that Robinson himself faced as a child. 

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How many of us haven’t been there, as Milo is? Imagining where passerby are going, who they are, what they do?  How often are we pleasantly surprised or find ourselves mistaken in our assumptions? I imagine asking students these prompts, asking about first impressions and judgement, asking students to reconsider and to reimagine.

Text response ideas: Think of a time you made a judgement or assumption. What did you think? What did you later find out that made you rethink? 

*Have you ever felt like a “shook up soda”? Where were you going? what could help you feel better, to keep yourself from bursting? *Echoing the last illustration in the book, in which Milo imagines a day with his mother eating ice cream on the stoop, students could illustrate or write about the world they wish they could see. 

*With older students, the text could be used to discuss and dismantle implicit bias and stereotypes.  

Check out this resource guide for more ideas related to Milo Imagines the World, as well as Carmela Full of Wishes and Last Stop on Market Street. Check out the illustrator’s site here, and the author’s site here.

I feel like right now especially, it’s so important that we’re telling stories that ask each other to take a second look and to not make those easy, quick judgments about each other. …

As a kid, of course, not having my my mother there was painful, certainly, but probably even more painful thing was holding on to that experience myself and internalizing it and feeling disconnected, not having that connection with others. So I think this book has the potential to be healing, to create conversations, to create empathy and compassion.

~Christian Robinson
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