Review of Milo Imagines the World

Milo Imagines the World
by Matt de la Peña; illus. by Christian Robinson
Primary    Putnam    40 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-399-54908-3    $18.99
Spanish ed.  978-0-593-35462-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-399-54909-0    $10.99

Harold and the Purple Crayon meets twenty-first-century urban realism in this picture book by the Last Stop on Market Street (rev. 1/15) author-illustrator team (simultaneously published in Spanish as Milo imagina el mundo). Milo, a diminutive brown-skinned boy with round glasses and a lime-green hat, boards a subway train with his big sister. While she plays games on her phone, Milo studies people and imagines lives for them through his notebook and colored pencils. Robinson’s art alternates between color-saturated, double-page-spread scenes of train activity and Milo’s sketches. Milo sees a boy wearing a suit and draws him as a prince arriving at his castle; for a wedding-gown-clad passenger, Milo draws her imagined ceremony. He then reimagines and re-illustrates many of his scenes, intentionally looking at his subjects in a different way. Milo and his sister finally reach their destination: a detention center, where they visit their incarcerated mother (the boy on the subway who was wearing a suit is visiting someone, too). As in Jacqueline Woodson’s picture book Visiting Day (rev. 11/02), the joy and parent-child love shine through, and the climax comes with Milo’s sharing of a special drawing he has created for his mother. 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.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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