For many children, riding the subway is not a mere means to travel from one point to another. The sheer sound of a train coming and going; getting on, getting off; the conductor’s calling, “Next stop... ;” looking at the seemingly tangled, yet, colorful subway maps, these are all little things grown-ups find indifferent if not annoying, but children are fascinated with. If the subway is the New York City subway, the excitement (or annoyance) would be tripled!The local, express, uptown, downtown, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or A, B, C, N, Q, R, S. You would be riding with a huge crowd of people wherever you go, all different faces, colors, dresses, and a babble of languages. Then there, if you are very lucky, you would encounter the Island Lady, as little boy Oscar did. She has a “fine islands smile,” a broad, and welcoming smile that invites shy Oscar to somewhere beyond the subway.
In Miriam Cohen’s Down in the Subway, Oscar was riding the # 1 train with his mother and baby brother. It is a hot day. Peeking at the Island Lady, Oscar is wondering what is in her big Island bag? She smiles, and pulls out things(!) she carries in her colorful straw bag- a cool blue Island breeze; Ackee rice, guava, coconut tarts, soursop soup, a delicious Caribbean meal that everyone in the subway has plenty of; and Calypso Man and a steel band. Then the Island lady pulls out a Caribbean town, where people start doing the jump-up. So do the reserved New Yorkers in the subway. Down in the subway, where it might not be a very pleasant place on a hot summer day, there, Oscar gets the tropical vacation.
Miriam Cohen’s vivacious story becomes even more lively and enchanting by Melanie Hope Greenberg’s colorful, rich, and creative illustrations (click here to learn more about Greenberg’s fabulous art). Exciting news for all of us: On April 14, Melanie Hope Greenberg will be at the 2011 Texas Librarian Association Conference (April 12-15, Austin, Texas) doing a book signing of Down in the Subway ( from 1pm to 3pm). Come and join us at Star Bright Books booth #1428 if you are in Austin. Greenberg has donated original picture book art for the 2011 TLA Disaster Relief Fund raffle. The raffle will take place at 4pm on April 14. Good luck to all, and to all good luck!