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15 Years Later, We Remember — Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About 9/11

by Sharon Holbrook

We parents remember it like a vivid nightmare. Our children, though, were not yet born. How can they comprehend? What will we say to them? And, perhaps most importantly, how can understanding the events of September 11, 2001 help them understand the scary things they may see on the news today?

As always, books are here to help.

  • The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

    by Mordicai Gerstein

    This Caldecott Medal-winning picture book evokes the Twin Towers’ peaceful past, when the most dramatic event there was French performer Philippe Petit’s quixotic quest to walk a high-wire strung between the tops of the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Children will delight in the book’s poetic rhythms and gentle suspense. Just as gently, the reader learns that the towers are now gone. “What happened to them?” your child will ask. And you will begin to answer.

  • Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

    by Maira Kalman

    When it’s time to talk about the September 11 attacks, and begin the next generation’s tribute to those lost, this picture book is a winning choice. In 2001, the 1931 John J. Harvey had long since retired from active firefighting duty for New York City, first falling into disrepair and later resurrected as a pleasure boat. Now, in the face of terrorist attacks — the details of which are simply but clearly described — the Harvey springs into action once again, fighting the long-burning fires at Ground Zero. A tale of heroism, bravery, and the good that ordinary people (and humble old boats) can do when dark days arrive.

  • September Roses

    by Jeanette Winter

    Two South African sisters have prepared thousands of roses for a flower show in New York City, only to be stranded at LaGuardia airport when their plane lands on that terrible morning of September 11. In the aftermath, the women create a moving public memorial from their roses. When tragedy strikes, it’s easy to feel helpless and aimless. This lovely little picture book reminds us to reach out, and that small expressions of tenderness and beauty are healing responses to tragedy and sadness.

  • America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001 (The Day the Towers Fell)

    by Don Brown

    The story of New York City on September 11 is told here as a vivid, compelling narrative. Brown uses real people and their actual quotes to bring an emotional immediacy to this excellent work of nonfiction. Sensitive children may be upset by some material — this book mentions the people who desperately jumped to their deaths from the high floors of the Twin Towers — but the book is generally age-appropriate for those age ten and up.

  • Just a Drop of Water

    by Kerry O’Malley Cerra

    This likable middle-grade novel makes the confusion and fright of September 11 come alive by putting the reader in the shoes of a fictional South Florida eighth-grader, Jake, during the upheaval of September 2001. Just a Drop of Water dives deep into the complications of friendship, adolescent tensions with parents, peace and violence, and the challenges faced by Muslim Americans. Middle schoolers will find this book exceptionally relatable given the appealing narrator, the book’s age-appropriate and never-condescending treatment of complex issues, and the continuing reality of terrorist attacks in today’s real world.

  • Shooting Kabul

    by N.H. Senzai

    Eleven-year-old Fadi and his Afghan family escape the Taliban to arrive in the U.S. as refugees shortly before September 11, but little sister Mariam has been accidentally left behind in the confusion of the escape. The middle-grade novel does not focus deeply on the tragic details of September 11, but instead on the struggles of Fadi’s family to locate his sister halfway around the world, and on the family’s efforts to make a life as refugee Muslim-Afghans during this tumultuous period in the U.S. Shooting Kabul exposes the reader to the cultures of Afghanistan and Islam through a picture of a warm, loving extended family and vividly presented locations on two continents.

  • The 9/11 Report (A Graphic Adaptation)

    by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

    After September 11, a bipartisan government group known as the 9/11 Commission undertook an exhaustive analysis of the events and intelligence leading up to the attacks, and of the management of the crisis in the wake of the attacks. Its findings, The 9/11 Commission Report, were released as an almost-600 page book for the purpose of engaging the public in the task of making our nation safer. Jacobson and Colón performed a remarkable feat in distilling and illustrating this hefty tome into an intelligent and understandable 130-page graphic adaptation. The 9/11 Report (A Graphic Adaptation) makes smart use of its medium, combining timelines and maps with traditional panels to bring a complex cast of events and characters to life with exceptional clarity. Highly recommended for high school students and adults alike.

Fifteen years past September 11, 2001, terrorism continues to be a threat to our nation. What can end it? We may not yet know, but reading and understanding have always been necessary to heal the wounds of division and violence. And so, with hope, we bring the next generation with us to the bookshelf.

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