Subway Story

Subway Story

3.5 2
by Julia Sarcone-Roach

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Never was there a subway car who loved her job more than Jessie. From morning to night she carried all sorts of people all sorts of places—to work and school and World's Fairs, over bridges and through tunnels—sometimes she even took a pigeon along for the ride! But as time passed, sleek new silver cars began to take over the tracks, banishing Jessie to an…  See more details below


Never was there a subway car who loved her job more than Jessie. From morning to night she carried all sorts of people all sorts of places—to work and school and World's Fairs, over bridges and through tunnels—sometimes she even took a pigeon along for the ride! But as time passed, sleek new silver cars began to take over the tracks, banishing Jessie to an abandoned lot. What will she do with no passengers to carry? And where will she go now that she's no longer welcome on the tracks?

Based on the true story of 1960's-era subway cars that are now being used to create artificial reefs in the Atlantic, this stunningly illustrated second book from Julia Sarcone-Roach is sure to delight scuba diving historians and kids alike.

Editorial Reviews

Pete Hamill
Sarcone-Roach guides us to Jessie's final destination with energy, style and charm. Only a subway rider (as the author most definitely is) could have imagined this book, and given us such a sustained sense of wonder.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Jessie is a New York City subway car who loves her job: carrying people (and the occasional Christmas tree or wedding cake) all over the city, accompanying subway musicians with clickety-clacks, zooming through subterranean tunnels. But what will become of Jessie when she’s too old to refurbish and repair? The upbeat answer: Jessie becomes part of an artificial reef in the Atlantic Ocean, “And now a whole city lives inside her.” Sarcone-Roach (The Secret Plan) so effectively portrays her heroine as an endearing, can-do machine that some readers may find Jessie’s journey to the ocean floor genuinely alarming. Because Jessie has no idea what’s happening to her, the pages that depict her being stripped of parts, loaded onto a boat full of anxious-looking subway cars, and dumped into the spooky depths of the ocean feel a bit like witnessing a mob hit. What’s more, Jessie’s sweet smile and eager eyes disappear once she becomes a reef; by erasing her personality and focusing on the aquatic life that takes up residence on and in Jessie, Sarcone-Roach ends with an obituary rather than a new beginning. Ages 5–9. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, November/December 2011:
Sarcone-Roach displays a discipline not always seen in books about the environment; she allows her theme of reuse and recycling to emerge naturally from a fine story and lets readers draw their own conclusions without adding a heavy-handed one of her own. Here youngsters meet Jessie, a subway car that begins service during the 1964 New York World’s Fair and contentedly operates for approximately fifty years before she is dismantled. Jessie and other cars like her are hauled out to sea and, in a small scary moment (which is quickly resolved), dumped into the ocean. There she happily resides as an artificial reef that’s home to myriad sea animals. Illustrations, unexpectedly cozy-looking, emphasize the story’s tone. Structurally and artistically, the book recalls Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House (rev. 11/42) (“Over the years, Jessie saw the city change, and she had some changes of her own”): Jessie’s half-century of traveling the city is depicted through a series of curved routes much like the streets and roads that close in on the Little House with the passage of time. Front end pages trace Jessie’s original underground route; final ones show a peaceful, blue ocean where she now rests. An author’s note describing the science behind similar projects and a bibliography conclude the book. betty carter
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
This enormously appealing picture book by the enormously talented Sarcone-Roach stars an anthropomorphized subway car named Jessica, who at her birth in St. Louis, Missouri, "weighed 75,122 pounds and was 51 ? feet long." A "beautiful, shiny new subway car," Jessica works happily all over her new home of New York City, especially honored to be allowed to transport visitors to the fairgrounds of the 1964 World's Fair. She busily carries Christmas trees, wedding cakes, jazz musicians, and even "the occasional pigeon," until inevitable old age leads to her abandonment in a railway yard with other equally forlorn trains. But Sarcone-Roach delivers a surprisingly upbeat ending as Jessica (depicted with wonderfully worried headlight eyes) is sent down to the ocean floor—not to be banished to oblivion, but to provide the scaffolding for a vibrantly alive coral reef: Jessica was "once an important part of the city where she lived. And now a whole city lives inside her." Based on a true story that Sarcone-Roach stumbled upon during a visit to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, this is as touching as Hans Christian Andersen's humanized fir trees and steadfast tin soldiers, and a heck of a lot more cheering. It will be wonderful to see what this prodigiously gifted author/artist stumbles upon next. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—This story of "Jessie," a subway car built in the early 1960s, was inspired by the author's trip to the New York Transit Museum and is a lovely tribute to the city and its boroughs. Told in a clever biographical format, the story begins with Jessie's "birth" details: weight, length, etc. The shiny, new car takes her responsibilities seriously as she safely carries children to school, adults to work, and friends and family members to visit one another. As the decades pass, Jessie delivers visitors to the 1964 World's Fair in Queens, is covered in graffiti, then painted red, repaired, and refurbished, including air-conditioning to replace outdated fans. Eventually, she is retired and becomes part of an artificial reef in the Atlantic Ocean, where she assumes her new job. The expressive acrylic illustrations set the tone and give the story depth. The features on the front of the subway car are used to make Jessie's eyes, nose, and mouth. An author's note gives details about the history of subway cars around the world. This title will be appreciated by train buffs and those curious about the history of New York City.—Anne Beier, Clifton Public Library, NJ
Kirkus Reviews

Jessie weighs 75,122 pounds and is a beautiful, brand-new subway car.

She was brought to New York in the early 1960s for the World's Fair, and she loves traveling all over the city. She speeds around curves and ducks under rivers. When musicians practice on board, she accompanies them with deep rumbles and toe-tapping clacks. Over the years, there are many changes, but Jessie never forgets her most important job—helping people travel safely. Until one season, sleek, shiny new silver trains start taking over the tracks. A downcast Jessie sits in a dusty yard, poignantly wondering about the people she had carried. "Did they notice she was gone?" Thankfully, her adventure doesn't end there. She is taken to the Atlantic and sunk to become an artificial reef, home to many barnacles, coral and fish. Sarcone-Roach cleverly brings the story full circle: Jessie was once an integral part of a bustling city, and now a whole city lives inside of her. With sprawling landscapes and vast underground tunnels as a backdrop, readers will cheer Jessie's story of revival. The author's acrylics gently anthropomorphize Jessie, giving her headlight-eyes and a winsome smile.

Immensely readable and surprisingly touching, this large heft of metal totes a lot of charm. (author's note, bibliography, further reading) (Picture book. 3-6)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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File size:
11 MB
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Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

After attending the Rhode Island School of Design, JULIA SARCONE-ROACH made her Knopf picture book debut with The Secret Plan. She is also the creator of animated videos, including Call of the Wild, which was featured in indie film festivals and won several prizes. Like Jessie, Julia is an avid traveler and has many adventures in mind for future picture books.

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Subway Story 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KathrynS1 More than 1 year ago
I have three kids and what seems like a billion books. We are so good about going to the library because we really don't need a single more book for our shelves. But I am buying this book because every single kid (and this mom) loves it, is intrigued by the story, and is inspired by the environmental message it gives readers.  Sarcone-Roach has it all: a great story teller, with words that capture kids' attention and imagination, and her illustrations match. This book is a story about a subway car "born" in St Louis and moves to work and live in New York City for many, many decades. She contributes to the city in a bunch of different ways--examples all given in the book--and then, when she's too outdated to contribute anything else, she's stripped of hardware and dumped into the ocean. That sounds harsh, and the first time we read that my kids were a little aghast at the site of this subway card plunging towards the bottom of the ocean. But quickly (in the book, more time in real life I'm sure) one fish comes, then more fish come, then coral attaches to her and some turtles and dolphins swim by to visit and...she has a whole city inside her. Highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sounds wierd