Books It's Monday What Are You Reading Nomads Homes and Habitats: Restlessness and Refuge Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] An Ode To Travel with Trains, Subways, Lines to Nowhere and Everywhere in “The Secret Subway” and “Line 135”


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

These two picturebooks highlight one of the many ways in which people get to travel – and since I do have an ongoing love affair with subways and trains, these two books captured my fancy – and they are perfect for our reading theme.


IMG_1133The Secret Subway

Written by: Shana Corey Illustrated by: Red Nose Studio
ISBN: 0375870717 (ISBN13: 9780375870712) Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

My daughter and I have fallen in love with New York City. I think a part of us would always be city girls, at home with tall buildings, busy streets, and the vibrant pulse of diverse people intermingling – all filled with hope, potential, and the promise of things to come – by tomorrow at the very latest. This story takes us back as early as the 1800s when there were no subways yet in New York:


All the bright thinkers were at a loss as to how to solve the incessant traffic that made the streets of New York at the time quite chaotic, a veritable mayhem with stagecoaches and buggies mingling with pigs, sheep, and other animals – not to mention pedestrians on their way to everywhere. It was a visionary named Alfred Ely Beach, a publisher and an inventor, a thinker and a doer, who came up with the brilliant idea to build an underground tunnel (all the better to avoid traffic, trash, or weather) with a train powered by an enormous fan.


Predictably, the idea met with a great deal of bureaucratic resistance that did not allow the idea to take off during Beach’s lifetime.


However, bright ideas do have a way of staying alive through time, and being actualized in due course. The rest as they say is history. Here are a few of our subway photos while in New York two years ago.


On our way to Lombardi’s Pizza Place.


With my daughter who loves New York!


With my husband.


Line 135IMG_1140

Written by: Germano Zullo Illustrated by: Albertine
ISBN: 1452119341 (ISBN13: 9781452119342) Published by: Chronicle Books, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

One of the things I absolutely love about our reading themes is that they lead us to authors and illustrators that we are not familiar with – such is the case now with Swiss book creators, husband and wife tandem Germano Zullo and Albertine.


The story begins simply enough with a mother bringing her young daughter to the train station as she travels on her own to her grandmother’s house in the country. Look at that straight line above – so stark, so simple, a lot of blank spaces for the eye to rest. Then the reader sees this bright yellow/orange train:


As the train moves along from one part of the city to the next, the young girl ruminates about her dream to travel the world when she grows up:

When you move between two places, it’s called traveling.

One day, I will travel everywhere. I will go here. I will go there. I will go this way and I will go that way. I will know the entire world.


However, the young girl’s mother and grandmother try to temper the young girl’s enthusiasm by letting her know that this is hardly possible – that she is too small and the world too big to truly understand in full. They caution that life moves quickly when you are older, and that knowing one’s self is already difficult enough, how much more the entire world:


Told in remarkably distilled text and line drawings that are fine and pointed and deceptively simple, this story gave me goosebumps. I am not sure if it is because I have been traveling Europe over the past weeks, or because I have gone farther and wider than both my mother and grandmother have gone before – and all of these beyond my wildest imaginings, but I felt unbidden tears in my eyes as I read:


But when I am big, I will make sure life moves with me.

It is a reminder of how all things are made possible either through fate, chance or circumstance – or simply because we want it enough. This is a book to own and read aloud – especially to those who are at pivotal points in their lives.

For those of you who wish to know more about husband and wife tandem Zullo and Albertine, here is an IBBY feature on Albertine.

Here are a few “train” photos when I was traveling from Budapest to Bratislava sometime in 2013.





Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

11 comments on “[Monday Reading] An Ode To Travel with Trains, Subways, Lines to Nowhere and Everywhere in “The Secret Subway” and “Line 135”

  1. You do find the most interesting books, Myra – but I love the way you personalized your reading with your travel pictures – such fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My library does have Line 135 and The Secret Subway, Myra, off to get them! Love seeing your pictures. You’ve been on quite a few adventures lately!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These sound really neat! 🙂


  4. bluestockingthinking

    Secret Subway looks so awesome!!! I want to snag that one to read aloud 🙂


  5. crbrunelle

    Secret Subway is super cool, but I hadn’t seen Line 135 before. I will have to watch for it. I like them together.


  6. I adore those illustrations in Line 135. I come from a homogeneous small town. I love living in this city, Vancouver, B.C. because of how diverse the population is. It feels sometimes like we are living in a successful experiment that shows how we can all get along because of our differences!


  7. Luis P. Gatmaitan

    Ikaw pala ‘yung girl sa story ng Line 135! I bought the book (per Eugene Evasco’s recommendation). More travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Unlikely Friendships and The Grace Of Letting Go in Award-Winning Picturebooks from UK and Switzerland – Gathering Books

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