The Secret Subway

The Secret Subway
Written by Shana Corey, Illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Publisher’s Summary:
New York City in the 1860s was a mess- crowded, disgusting, filled with garbage. You see, way back in 1860, there were no subways, just cobblestone streets. That is until Alfred Ely Beach had the idea for a fan-powered train that would travel underground. On February 26, 1870, after fifty-eight days of drilling and painting and plastering, Beach unveiled his masterpiece-and throngs of visitors took turns swooshing down the track.

Primary Source Pairing:
Alfred Ely Beach was a problem solver. He saw the problem of the crowded New York City streets and the thought outside of the box, or in this case under the streets. In 1870, his idea took shape and a solution to the crowded streets was presented. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study a plan for the Beach Pneumatic Transit Station and Tunnel as published in Scientific American, March 5, 1870. Additionally, the illustrations created by Red Nose Studio are phenomenal. Encourage students to carefully study each page of this book to take notice of each detail, brushstroke, and clay sculpting feature. As an extension activity, ask students what problems they would like to solve and challenge them to create a solution. Create a display in the library or school with these student projects.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • How much of the text can you read? What does it say?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • How are the words arranged?
  • What do you notice about the page the writing appears on?
  • What do you see on the page besides writing?
  • What other details can you see?
  • What do you think was happening when it was created?
  • What tools and materials were used to create it?
  • What can you learn from examining this?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Beach Pneumatic Transit Station and Tunnel: Wikipedia

Additional Resources:
Book trailer:
Red Nose Studio website: