I’ve been checking the library shelves under “N” for months now,waiting for Christoph Niemann’s Subway to appear on the shelves for my son and me to check out. I’m a fan of Niemann’s charming Abstract City blog, and when I heard he had written/illustrated a book about the subway, I knew we had to get our hands on it. Miraculously, the book was available yesterday, and I snatched it up.
At age 2 1/2 and a lifelong Manhattanite, my son has become a big fan of the subway. He is working on memorizing all the stops on the 1 Train, which is the line we tend to take most often. His little friends seem to like the subway too. At school pick up, his pal Ben likes to ask us if we are taking the local or express train home. Thus, I had a strong feeling this book would be a big hit with the toddler set.
My son took to Subway immediately. Besides loving the subway as a mode of transportation, the names of the trains are especially suited to 2 year olds, who are busy learning their letters and numbers. We also like to use to book to explain the concept of “New York City” to him. Frankly, a huge city with five boroughs and numerous small neighborhoods is really confusing to a little kid. But when we read Subway, we say, “Look! This train is going all the way through Manhattan and across the East River into Brooklyn!” Eventually, I think this will all sink in. Moreover, my son is looking forward to riding the subway all over the city with his father, just like the little kids in the book. (Right now, he hasn’t quite developed the patience to ride around on the train all day long.)
I wonder if this book appeals to children outside of New York City. I imagine the subway is a very abstract concept to kids who spend all their time in the suburbs and travel exclusively by car. But sometimes it seems like the rest of the country believes that New York City belongs to them, too, so perhaps if the child has visited the City, or plans to visit, this book would be appropriate. Also, I suppose it’s never bad to expose your child to life in other places, even if you don’t live in New York and have no plans to take the subway, ever. However, my son feels a certain ownership over the subway, and the city in general. Every so often, he will exclaim gleefully, “We’re in New York City!” Whenever we pass the stop for the A Train, he shouts, “It’s the A Train!” Can any other place, and its imperfect but astounding mode of transportation, inspire such loving devotion?