Subway : Book Review

Looking for a good book for a train loving tot? Check out my review of Subway by Anastasia Suen, with illustrations by Karen Katz.

Book review: Subway by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Karen Katz

24 pages, English

Published 2008

Available in Hardcover and Board Book


We first got Subway from the library when The Small Controller was three, and I wish I had found it long ago. It is the story of a child’s subway trip, describing the events in rhyme. The words are simple and the rhyme scheme is strong.

I knew the illustrator, Karen Katz, from various peek-a-boo books, and her style is consistent here: colourful, including bright patterns and rounded shapes.

The main characters are a girl and her mother, which is great to see in a vehicle related book (although it could be argued that Subway is more a description of an experience a child might have than a book intended for subway/vehicle lovers, it’s still great). Better still, the main characters are people of colour, as are many of the other subway riders. Children’s train books, in my experience thus far, weigh heavily towards having only (or mainly) white, male human characters. Even if your train-loving child is white and male it is a really good thing to have other identities reflected in his literary world. If the train-loving child in your life isn’t white and male, the difficulty of finding other options could be enough to make you weep.

Subway is not a technical book and does not describe how the subway works, or even who the various people necessary for its operation are; instead its point-of-view is simply that of the rider. It begins with going down the stairs into the subway station and ends with the main characters exiting the station at their destination and the train disappearing down the tunnel. In between it covers typical aspects of a subway trip: changing trains, listening to musicians in the station, and watching out the window of a busy train.

It’s a lovely book. Anastasia Suen’s rhyme and repetitive language make it a good choice even for pre-verbal children. I could recommend it for any young child as a preparation for a first subway trip, but it has also become a fast favourite for The Small Controller who has been riding the subway for a couple of years.