Saturday, February 28, 2015

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach
Random House Children's Books

Rating: 5 stars

A few weeks ago we read and I blogged about Julia Sarcone-Roach's recent picture book, The Bear Ate Your Sandwich. As I often do, I was so impressed with that book that I checked out every other book our library system had by her. This was how we came across Subway Story. We've had it at home for about a week; I think I've read it out loud about two dozen times. Truly. I'm not exaggerating. My kids (and I) just love it.

Here's the story: Jessie is a subway car "born" in St. Louis, MO, then shopped to New York for a long, busy, productive career ferrying people to and from, from and to. For decades, she takes people and their belongings all across the city. She gets fixed up from time to time, but Jessie is happiest to be on the rails, working hard in her beloved city.

I love how this illustration shows time passing...
Then, something happens that happens to all of us: she ages. She gets outdated. After a few band-aid fixes, she gets pulled into the shop. Jessie quickly realizes that she's not getting fixed up--she's getting taken apart. Sure enough, some workers are stripping her of bolts and chains, seats and screws. She's put on a barge with a bunch of other nervous-looking, outdated subway cars and taken out to sea.

When they are in what seems to be the middle of the ocean, the cars get dumped into the water, one at a time. I admit my kids were a little horrified to see Jessie plunge down, down, down into the deep water and PLUNK heavily at the bottom.

But soon (probably a teensy bit faster than in real life), one fish comes. Then another, and another, and then a whole school of fish. Coral come to attach themselves to poles once gripped by sleepy commuters. Turtles and dolphins stop by and visit.

Jessie once served a city; now a whole city lives inside of her.

The eloquent and spot-on Horn Book reviewer had this to say (quote and more information, including many more illustrations, found here, in this interview with Sarcone-Roach):
Sarcone-Roach displays a discipline not always seen in books about the environment; she allows her theme of reuse and recycling to emerge naturally from a fine story and lets readers draw their own conclusions without adding a heavy-handed one of her own.
I wish I could get inside my kids' brains to understand what about this story so captivates them. Three times this week I've read it to Kiefer, then walked with it to Ben's room and read it to him. (We read separately--not incredibly efficient but allows me some time with each kid at the end of the day.) Is it the unexpected ending? Is it the fact that this is based on a true story? Is it the city landscape, something that is cool but foreign to them? Is it the magical way the fish and coral and other sea creatures cover Jessie at the end? Whatever it is, they LOVE the book.

And, despite the fact that we don't need another book in this house, I bought it. It just had to be a part of our collection of books for now, and forever.

(Such a dramatic ending! I feel like I need theme music or something.)

P.S. Here's an image from real life to show your kids, and click HERE for a little bit of background, too.

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