The Secret Subway

Go beyond planes, trains, and automobiles! Check out this week’s fascinating “Perfect Picture Book.”

TitlIMG_0863e: The Secret Subway

Written by: Shana Corey

Illustrated by: Red Nose Studio

Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House, 2016, nonfiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8 (I would say 5+)

Lexile: AD810

Themes/topics: history, New York City, subways, invention

Welcome to New York City—the greatest city on earth!
You say it looks crowded? Dirty? DISGUSTING?
The streets are filled with GARBAGE?
Well…you’re right.
See, back in the 1860’s, when this story begins, there were no subways here, only cobblestone streets.

Brief synopsis
(from New York City in the 1860s was a mess: crowded, disgusting, filled with garbage. You see, way back in 1860, there were no subways, just cobblestone streets. That is, until Alfred Ely Beach had the idea for a fan-powered train that would travel underground. On February 26, 1870, after fifty-eight days of drilling and painting and plastering, Beach unveiled his masterpiece—and throngs of visitors took turns swooshing down the track.

Activities and Resources:
The New York Transit Museum site offers educational materials, including a Teacher Resource Center.
Make a timeline of transportation. Categorize the modes by different types of propulsion.
Here are just a couple of the many teacher transportation units on the web:
ESL Transportation unit 
Transportation Art Activities

Why I like this book:
The “claymation” art immediately invites you to pickup this book. Phenomenal! But as a writer, I was amazed by the text as well. The language is lyrical and engaging, the story expertly structured. History lurks on every page in both text and illustrations. What a great way to learn about this “underground” history!
This book is an excellent selection for ESL students beyond elementary school. The language is rich with idioms and vivid vocabulary. It easily extends into history, politics, transportation, and offers an array of research opportunities.
The Secret Subway is an excellent picture book on multiple levels!

Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent resources.

9 thoughts on “The Secret Subway

    1. I’m not an artist so not sure if “claymation” is the correct term. That’s what I call it. Check Julie Rowan Zoch’s post on the same book today – she has the artist POV. 🙂


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