Friday, February 12, 2021

Strangers on the Train: Milo Imagines The World by Matt de la Pena

Milo's husky big sister hurries him onto the subway, eager to get back to taking a selfie and whatever else she is doing on her phone.

Milo looks around at the other passengers, all seemingly absorbed with their thoughts--a bored-looking businessman with briefcase, a young woman in wedding gown, clutching flowers, a boy about his age dressed in a suit and tie, a whiskery guy in slipons and socks frowning over his newspaper. The Sunday subway ride seems to last forever.

Milo's feelings are bouncing around inside him like a well-shaken soda....

Excitement on top of worry, on top of confusion, on top of love...

To stop the feeling, Milo begins to draw in his notebook and wonder about the other people on the train. As the scruffy whiskered guy gets up and rings the bell, Milo pictures him at home with lots of cats and rats as company. He shows the bride going to her wedding and perhaps a trip in a hot-air balloon, and he pictures the boy in the coat and tie entering a castle, complete with drawbridge, butler, and chef with crustless finger sandwiches for him. Milo tugs as his sister to show her his pictures, but she gives him a quick look and elbows him away.

Who hasn't wondered about the lives of nearbypassengers on a plane or subway? But the subjects of Milo's drawings don't exactly follow the lives he creates for them.

When the wedding-dressed woman strides off the train, a band of street performers launches into "Here Comes the Bride" and everyone on the platform cheers.

Milo didn't see that one coming. He looks at the dressed up boy and the boy looks back.

They lock eyes for a few long seconds.

Milo is surprised when the boy and his dad get off at the same stop as Milo's.

He is even more surprised when the boy joins the long line to pass through the metal detector.

Maybe it's not so easy to know what another person's real life is like from looking at them, Milo muses.

And both boys enter a room where women prisoners are meeting with their families, in Matt de la Pena's just published Milo Imagines the World (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2021), where Milo shows his mom the picture he drew just for her, a picture of the whole family together on their front steps, a picture he still wants to be true. In this poignant family story, author Matt de la Pena is again joined by artist Christian Robinson, who illustrated their Caldecott Honor Medal book, Last Stop on Market Street (read review Last Stop on Market Street.)

"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," says School Library Journal.

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