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I Am the Subway

Book Synopsis

A cinematic journey through the Seoul subway that masterfully portrays the many unique lives we travel alongside whenever we take the train. A poetic translation of the bestselling Korean picture book.

Accompanied by the constant, rumbling ba-dum ba-dum of its passage through the city, the subway has stories to tell. Between sunrise and sunset, it welcomes and farewells people, and holds them — along with their joys, hopes, fears, and memories — in its embrace.

Originally published in Korean and brought to English-speaking audiences with the help of renowned translator Deborah Smith (The Vegetarian), I Am the Subway vividly reflects the shared humanity that can be found in crowded metropolitan cities.

Translated by Deborah Smith.

Our Review Panel says...

This picture book was originally written in Korean and has been translated by Deborah Smith.

Author-illustrator Kim Hyo-eun introduces readers to a typical ride on a subway train around the South Korean capital of Seoul. As we join the author for a ride, we encounter the various individuals making the journey, and we are simply invited to sit back and observe shared humanity during an everyday activity.

The poetic text draws out the rhythmic sounds of the train, and the watercolour pictures introduce a host of characters. Some are highlighted by the author’s comments – the man whose lovely daughter makes him late for work but quick to return home to see her smile, the granny who is bringing fresh fish and octopus for her family in the city, the mother hiding her baby, and exhausted girl on the school journey.

This is the kind of book that captures shared humanity at a given moment in time, while reminding readers that everybody has a story – with individual hopes, dreams, worries and fears. The story invites empathy with the individuals who make up the subway crowds on the rhythmical metropolitan commutes that run like clockwork. It’s easy to forget to care about human individuals when we are faced with crowds of unknown faces, and this book is the antidote to that – an important message for today’s generation where real-life human connection can feel in decline.

Pupils might like to innovate by creating backstories for some of the characters mentioned, or perhaps pick another transport method or crowded place and create their own illustrated offerings.

This book is available on these booklists:

I Am the Subway: Teaching Notes

A resource pack provided by the publisher to accompany the book I Am the Subway.

I Am the Subway

i am the subway

Book Details

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