I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun

Cover image for I Am the Subway.

I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun, translated by Deborah Smith (9781950354658)

Told from the point of view of the Seoul subway itself, this picture book takes readers deep into the city and introduces them to the various people who use the subway. With a steady ba-dum ba-dum, the subway rattles and rumbles over its tracks reaching stop after stop. At each stop a different character enters the story, from the business man running to make his train to a mother with two children who is also late to a man who repairs shoes for a living to a student so tired she is almost falling asleep. Each person offers their story, glimpses of their past and plans. As the train car fills up, the light shines in showing the beauty of each person and their journey.

This Korean import is beautifully written with a dazzling combination of simple prose that moves to a poem for each of the people entering the train. The poems are set apart from the prose, offering a full story of that person in just a few lines. The bustling urban setting is brought to a personal level as each human is highlighted and given space to shine. There is space here for transformation in each person’s life, the subway used as a huge metaphor for life and growth.

The illustrations are done in ink and watercolor. The humans are shown as more faceless at first but as they are introduced to the reader, they are shown in brighter colors in the crowd rather than the gray people around them. Each person’s story and poem are shown with the bright colors from the bluest of sea water to the bustle of the city itself.

A gorgeous celebration of Seoul and its people. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Scribble.

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