Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Subway: The Story of Tunnels, Tubes, and Tracks

Subway: The Story of Tunnels, Tubes, and Tracks

Larry Dane Brimner
Illustrator:  Neil Waldman 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 9 to 12
Boyds Mills Press, 2004   ISBN: 978-1590781760

In the early 1800's cities were noisy, dirty, and very crowded places. As more and more people came into the city center to work every day, the congestion became a real problem. Horse-drawn vehicles simply could not keep up with the crowds of people who needed to get into and around the city. Clearly something needed to be done about this situation. Planners on both sides of the Atlantic realized that rapid transit was the answer, but they could not figure out what form this should take.

Finally an English engineer, Marc Brunel, came up with the idea of moving people through tunnels underground. In the 1840's another engineer took some of Brunel's ideas and suggested that they build an underground railway to relieve some of London's overcrowding problems. Actual work on London's first underground railway began in 1860 and though the process was dogged with problems, the end result was so popular that other cities decided that they would follow London's example.

Subways became even better when proper electric trains where invented and developed. With electric trains the subway planners did not have to find ways to get rid of the soot and smoke that the trains produced. Today millions of people use subways in cities all over the world, and for residents in Tokyo, London, Paris, New York and other large cities, the subway is an essential part of their daily lives.

This book serves as a wonderful tribute to the inventors, engineers and planners who figured out how to build the world's first subways. The carefully researched text is written in a cheerful style, and interesting side bars provide excellent background information. The illustrations are executed in darker tones using a combination of media to create an effect that is very reminiscent of the era which they describe,