________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 14. . . . December 8, 2017


The Way Downtown: Adventures in Public Transit.

Inna Gertsberg. Illustrated by Mike Lowery.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2017.
44 pp., hardcover, $18.99.
ISBN 978-1-77138-552-7.

Subject Heading:
Local transit-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**** /4



Kids Can has published yet another jaunty children’s book that is part information and part entertainment. Readers are drawn in right away on the opening page:

Welcome to Zoom.
Zoom is a big city. It’s so big that most of its residents
have never met.

     But some of that will change in the course of this story.

     After the short opening paragraph, there is a statistical summary of Zoom, right down to the number of ice cream shops (29) and roller coasters (1). I was happy to see that this city of 3,000,001 has 98 libraries!

     Readers follow the performing family of Zanies; camera toting Robbie, a young tourist; Dr. Brody, a scientist who is also a dedicated bicycle rider; and Guy, who is blind and uses the help of guide dog Boris, as they travel by subway, ferry, and bus to find their way around the city of Zoom. It is especially entertaining to observe the antics of Agent Rybka, a spy who uses all these modes of transportation (and a few disguises as well) to go in circles and backtrack to evade anyone who might be trailing him.

     If you want to know how to read a subway map, you will find out here. If you want to see all the options for paying your fare on transit, be it a single ticket or a smart pass, the information is included. A picture of a harbour shows all manner of water transportation too. Along with all the facts are the little descriptors that make the book so much fun. “The subway station smells like shoes and cinnamon.” “Boris wakes up to the sound of the recycling truck. He knows it’s the recycling truck because he can hear glass bottles rattling and clinking.”

     The last spread indicates that everyone whose journeys we have been watching has ended up in the same place, a busy city park. We are offered not a conclusion to the day’s activities, but these tantalizing lines:

The subject, a large city (which certainly reminds me of Vancouver) and how transit can make it more livable, is of much current interest.

     Inna Gertsberg, whose career began in advertising art, has done a fine job with her first children’s book wherein captions and speech balloons expand on the notes in the blocks of text. She is ably partnered by American Mike Lowery, whose style reminds me of the work of Simms Taback (Joseph had a Little Overcoat; Road Builders). Illustrations, rendered in pen and ink and coloured pencil in muted tones, feature a myriad of people, animals and vehicles outlined in black comic book style shown variously in open spreads and in strip layout. The text has a hand lettered look, set in a font called ‘Shaky Hand Some Comic’.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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