As a new year gets underway I’m already looking ahead to more books and travel, so what could be better than combining the two and reviewing a children’s book that features both elements. My enormous thanks to Lefki at Cicada Books for sending me a copy of Underground: Subway Systems Around the World by Uijung Kim in return for an honest review.
Underground: Subway Systems Around the World is available in all good bookshops and online from major retailers, including here.
Underground: Subway Systems Around the World
This is a playful search-and-find book of underground systems around the world. Die cut pages introduce the subways of 10 different cities. On the first page we see the exterior of the train, and are presented with fascinating facts and figures about the transport system. On the following die cut page, we find the inside of the train and the platform, bustling with activity.
On this busy page, young readers are invited to spot key items that are unique to the city in question; a pretzel, an I ♥ NY t-shirt and a Statue of Liberty headband on the New York subway, for example. Perfect for train-obsessed children, but also for a wider audience, this book teaches young readers about transport and also about cultural signifiers of different cities around the world. Uijung Kim’s busy, colourful illustrations have a manga-like sensibility that feels joyously contemporary.
The cities included are: London, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow, Beijing, Mexico City, Paris, Madrid and Sydney.
My Review of Underground: Subway Systems Around the World
A visual exploration of 10 subway systems from around the world.
Now, I know this is a book primarily for children, but I really liked it because I’ve been on the subway systems of London, Madrid, New York, Paris, Sydney and Tokyo and looking at Uijung Kim’s artwork in Underground brought memories flooding back, enabling me to relive some incredible trips. With Beijing coming up this year and Moscow on my bucket list of places to visit, I found Underground was great fun for adults as well as children!
I like the way Underground is structured so that the subway is shown first and then a part page reveals travellers inside the train. The illustrations are bright, busy and hugely visual with a naive style children would love.
Underground appeals to children of many ages because the facts and figures are themselves interesting, and there’s enormous potential for research into geography and culture through the places included. Similarly, the glossary affords language development and international appreciation. I had no idea, for example, that carved Mandarin ducks are given as wedding presents in Korea.
I found it quite tricky to spot some of the hidden items to be found and I think this is an excellent feature. It teaches children patience and observation whilst being fun. There are opportunities for numeracy development too, perhaps counting the people in the train, or for younger children the number of dogs featured, or maybe people with glasses.
Underground is a book with a simple premise but considerable potential beyond its initial intention. I was impressed.
About Uijung Kim
Uijung Kim, originally from South Korea now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Uijung studied Art and Design in Gunsan University, South Korea and illustration at the College for creative studies in Detroit, MI, USA. Inspired by her childhood experiences and the family and friends she grew up with her work is strongly rooted in Korean culture through color, tone and narrative. Uijung likes making people happy and wants her work to speak to kids of all ages.