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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
I Am the Subway
by Kim Hyo-eun
Age Range: 6-8
Have you ever wondered about the multitude of stories behind the strangers you see out and about but never have a chance to meet? I Am the Subway, a picture book written by Korean author Kim Hyo-eun and translated by Deborah Smith transports the reader through highlights of multiple storylines that make up the people taking the Seoul subway. Before the story even gets rolling, children learn in an introduction that “the Seoul subway network is one of the longest in the world and reaches far beyond the city limits” and “it carries an average of 7.2 million people per day on the city lines alone. ”
Readers meet characters that are running late, carrying the scent of fresh seafood, travelling together with different generations, proudly sporting well-shined shoes, stressing about schoolwork and exams, selling new products, and contemplating about the pressures of the work world. I Am the Subway submerges readers into the busy, ever-moving world with people trying to get to their destinations, buying and selling goods, and sharing food and stories. “On my travels I meet so many people and things...the unique lives of strangers you might never meet again are all around you, every time you take the train,” writes the narrator. Kim’s illustrations of watercolour paint on the big pages introduce the faces of all of these strangers.
I Am the Subway is an example of a translated children’s book that will subtly introduce English speakers to an unfamiliar culture—children learn about Korean names, the Seoul subway, and Korean life (including school, food, work, and geography)—through familiar concepts, such as wondering about the lives of strangers in everyday life.
Catherine Hurwitz (Nov 2021)