The Train Home

Books

The subway train runs right past Nari’s lively New York City apartment building, and she imagines riding it to far-flung destinations that offer quiet spaces away from the bustling city and her boisterous family and neighbors. A beach, a forest, outer space—Nari envisions what it would be like to visit all these places and more. But the farther Nari travels, the closer she feels to home and the people there who love her. Author-illustrator Dan-ah Kim’s The Train Home is a creative adventure, a charming homage to New York City and a sweet reminder that home is truly where the heart is.

Kim’s prose is straightforward and unassuming, underpinned with subtle assonance and alliteration that will make it a pleasure to read aloud. It also contains a few moments of splendid and clever descriptive imagery, as when Nari’s apartment building “grumbles with neighbors left and right, above and below.”

Kim employs a variety of styles and media to create her visually distinct illustrations. She incorporates small pieces of cut paper and thread into images composed with pencil, gouache and acrylic. Nari herself is a simple outlined figure clad in loose yellow clothes, and she appears in stark contrast against busy, textured backdrops. Full-bleed, colorful spreads pull us into Nari’s real and imaginary worlds, while minute details offer much to explore and savor. 

Many of the places Nari imagines visiting on the train refer to real places connected by subway in New York City, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. New Yorkers and NYC fans will love spotting familiar sights such as Patience and Fortitude, the library’s famous lion statues. Subway signs included in many illustrations tie everything together and transform a mundane form of transportation into something filled with wonder.

Many picture books follow journeys “there and back again,” and strong artwork and tranquil storytelling make The Train Home a worthy addition to the tradition.

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