cover image I Am the Subway

I Am the Subway

Kim Hyo-eun, trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith. Scribble, $18.99 (52p) ISBN 978-1-950354-65-8

A translation by Smith brings Kim’s sensitive, closely observed portraits of Seoul’s subway passengers to English-speaking readers. The subway itself narrates (“On my travels I meet so many people and things”), its words punctuated with the rails’ constant “ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum” and passengers’ autobiographical thoughts. Graceful, luminous watercolors convey strength and delicacy; Kim handles with equal skill the workings of the train, the architecture of the stations, and the figures and expressions of the passengers. There’s Mr. Wanju, a businessman, dashing for the gate and eager to spend time with his daughter (“I always leave first,/ to run home and see her smile”), while Granny takes seafood from the coast to family in the city (“I’m going to cook a feast for my girls!”). Though some of the encounters raise questions that the story itself doesn’t address, in this quiet treasure of a tale, every person in the crowd has a story, a family they love, and dreams they cherish. Ages 4–7. [em](Aug.) [/em]