cover image The Secret Subway

The Secret Subway

Shana Corey, illus. by Red Nose Studio. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-87071-2

Corey’s absorbing story of New York City’s ill-fated first subway provides an ideal venue for the sculptural artistry of Chris Sickels, aka Red Nose Studio. Sickels (The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home) crafts stylized clay figures and furnishings with infinite care, then photographs them under dramatic lighting—they could be stills from a movie. In the 1860s, Alfred Ely Beach conceived of an underground train that could be propelled pneumatically. He oversaw the building of a short tunnel, a single car, the machinery to make it move, and a luxurious underground waiting room, complete with a fountain. “Beach’s train was a sensation,” writes Corey (Here Come the Girl Scouts!). A witty spread shows the car traveling to the right of the page, then back to the left, its momentum causing the wide-eyed, elaborately dressed passengers to sway. Shopkeepers and corrupt city leadership scotched the project, and it was forgotten, but Corey’s account sheds light on the way that commonplace institutions are often preceded by false starts, error, and scandal. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Magnet Reps. (Mar.)