Milo Imagines the World

I try to choose books that I believe are truly works of art, and this book easily fits that description. Milo imagines the lives of the people around him as he sits on a bus, on his way to an unknown location. He draws pictures about their lives, creating stories informed by his biases about identity. He realizes, after imagining a boy his age has an amazing life, that the boy is going to the same place he is going...(spoiler coming, stop reading if you don't want to know the ending). They both arrive at prison to visit their mothers.  Matt De La Pena is a masterful writer and this book is an excellent conversation starter for teaching about bias. How do visible characteristics incorrectly inform our biases and create barriers for relationship building?

It warms my heart to think about all the children who are facing this experience (some of whom have been in my classroom) and will feel seen as a result of this book.


Social Justice Activities:

The Teacher's Guide Below is excellent; I strongly suggest you read it first. Some additional activities:

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 1. Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.

Identity 2. Students will develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.

Identity 3. Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.

Identity 4. Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.

Diversity 6. Students will express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them and engage respectfully with all people.

Diversity 9. Students will respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.

Diversity 10. Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.

Justice 11. Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.

Justice 13. Students will analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world, historically and today.

Reading Strategies:

Please review the entire Teacher's Guide. It is excellent.

Theme: What is the author trying to teach us about bias and stereotypes?

Author's craft: Analyze how the author uses dialogue, metaphors and description to give us clues about the challenges Milo is experiencing because his mother is in prison (sister distracted, bedtime story over the phone, living at his aunt's).

Story Elements: Sequencing, Setting 

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Child of parent who is incarcerated
  • Author's stated heritage: Mexican heritage, raised in California
  • Subject Integration: Art

Teacher's Guide:

Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain