Friday, June 29, 2012

Get Ready to Ride the Subway!

Read It. Move It. Share It. 
Each month dance educator Maria Hanley and I explore a different picture book for our "Read It. Move It. Share It" collaboration. I recommend a book, Maria incorporates it into her creative movement classes, and we both share our experiences. This month I'm recommending the picture book Subway.

I've traveled on the "BART" in San Francisco,  the "Tube" in London, the "Metro" in Paris, the "Metro" in Washington, DC, and the "Subway" in New York City. Now that I think about it, I've been on quite a few underground railways... and I really like them!

Sometimes I like the bustle of people in the subway station, like on a busy weekday morning or on a Saturday afternoon when the station is bursting with tourists. Other times I enjoy a quiet station, like in the late evenings, when just a few people are milling around. And I always love the whirrr of the train as it finally approaches the station and I know that I am one step closer to my destination.

Washington DC Metro -- near me!

New York City Subway -- near Maria!

In the picture book Subway, author extraordinaire Anastasia Suen uses simple rhyme and repetition to take young readers through a typical trip on the subway, starting with going underground and spinning through a turnstile. The “waiting for the train” part of the journey is absent from the book, but that is probably a good idea since I bet most kids don’t like that part!

The rest of the book is full of the sights, sounds, and movements of the subway and the people you might encounter in a subway station. This, I think, is what makes this book a good choice for young dancers -- and especially so in a place like New York City, where most children have probably ridden the subway many many times. Here are a few snippets that could inspire movement...

away we go
fast, not slow
go, go, go
on the subway

halfway there
we take the stair
step, step, step
to the subway

rock left, rock right
we hang on tight
rock, rock, rock 
in the subway

The recognizable style of illustrator Karen Katz, who throughout the book depicts a cast of characters including a mother and her young daughter, gives Subway a young and playful feel. 

One of my favorite illustrations is of five travelers sitting in a row aboard a subway. Their heads are not visible, so young readers can't help but focus on how the travelers are spending their time. One is reading a book, one is holding a guitar case and reviewing some music, and another is hugging a bag of groceries.

According to her bio at the back of the book, Katz spent many hours on the New York City Subway to find inspiration for the artwork in the book. That sounds like pretty fun research, don’t you think?

For anyone who wants to relive the subway experience or introduce it to a young child, I highly recommend this book. It even comes in a board book format--perfect for traveling with on the subway! And if you would like to incorporate Subway into a creative movement class or other activity, be sure to check out Maria’s ideas here!

This post is also part of this week's Poetry Friday, which is being hosted by Paper Tigers (a wonderful website highlighting multicultural books for kids). Enjoy the poetic offerings!


  1. The book sounds charming, Kerry. I loved riding on the London tube. Probably my favorite system (don't like the D.C. metro too much).

    1. Thanks, Jama. I really do find it a charming book. I love Anastasia Suen's rhyme and was delighted to find out that Karen Katz illustrates books for other authors sometimes!

  2. This does sound a great book - and I love that you seek out books to accompany a movement class. I do the same with the small choir group I run of 4-6 year olds - I always try to end with a music-themed picture book, and the kids love it. It's a good way to calm them down before they go home too, after lots of action songs!

    1. Hi, Marjorie. Oh, that's so fabulous that you incorporate picture books into your choir group. I love music-themed books, too, and have even thought about featuring them once in a while on my site since music is so intertwined with dance. I'd love to hear more about your class some time!

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book for little kids and their parents. I love the double entendre of the lines "rock left and rock right... etc" Does the book have other clever parts like that?

    1. Hi, Violet. Thanks for stopping by. I've been on vacation but just got home and am looking at the book again. I like the opening line a lot. I think it is quite clever, too...

      we go down
      to go uptown
      down, down, down
      in the subway

      I love the rhythm and simplicity of the book, but it is also filled with lots of words and phrases that really bring the subway experience to life!

  4. Kerry, I love the post! Even though somedays I dread riding the subway, it was a great book to do in class! I think it's important for kids to know about other ways of transportation. I'm working on a transportation curriculum so this book will go into the rotation, for sure! :)

    1. Thanks, Maria! I'd love to hear more about your transportation curriculum and hope it is going well. Another book that might be fun to look into is PILOT PUPS by Michelle Meadows....a really fun one for really young kids :)

  5. If you had trouble riding the subway because of the boring ambiance of the trains you better have some books and music with you. Make the travel time more productive and fine.


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