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We Remember: Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About 9/11

by Sharon Holbrook

9_11_books_featured

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.

  • Branches of Hope

    by Ann Magee, illustrated by Nicole Wong

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    This wordless picture book tells the story of the 9/11 Survivor Tree. The small pear tree was rescued from the rubble, nourished back to health, and replanted at the memorial. A metaphor for New York City and its people, it offers hope and inspiration to readers of all ages. This book is an excellent conversation starter for young children in the classroom and at home.
    (Ages 4 - 7)

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

    by Maira Kalman

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    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.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

    by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

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    This fascinating story is about a metal beam from the World Trade Center getting remade into the bow of a Navy ship. After the attack on New York City, the beam traveled to Louisiana and underwent a remarkable transformation. Young readers will learn that good things can come out of tragedy.
    (Ages 6 - 9)

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  • 14 Cows for America

    by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez, contributions by Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah

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    If you want a story about kindness and empathy in the aftermath of 9/11, pick up a copy of this New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of an unexpected and heartfelt gift from the Maasai people to the United States during a time of grief and uncertainty.
    (Ages 7 - 10)

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  • What Were the Twin Towers?

    by Jim O'Connor and Who HQ, illustrated by Ted Hammond

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    Part of the What Was? book series, What Were the Twin Towers? provides a history of the once tallest buildings in the world that’s digestible for children. From their initial opening in 1973 to their destruction in 2001, this book details why they were built, the controversy surrounding their construction, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks that permanently destroyed them. If you’re looking for an illustrative, middle grade-friendly history, this is a great place to start.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

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  • The Places We Sleep

    by Caroline Brooks DuBois

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    Abbey doesn’t think there’s anything worse than starting at a new school. But then the September 11 attacks happen, and her world falls apart. This tender coming-of-age story follows a young girl as she grapples with the trauma of 9/11 and finds hope within herself. Readers will connect with Abbey’s story as they learn about that day and how it affected individuals and the country.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

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  • The Red Bandanna (Young Readers Adaption)

    by Tom Rinaldi

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    Adapted for young readers from Rinaldi’s 2016 bestseller, the story of Welles Crowther and his inspiring heroism is one that every reader should know. Known as the Man in the Red Bandanna, Crowther is credited with helping at least a dozen people escape the South Tower before it collapsed. None of the survivors knew who he was at the time — only that he wore a red bandanna. The bandanna Welles always carried helped witnesses put together a timeline of his heroic actions before he died that day. Told from multiple points of view, this is a moving and powerful story about courage, kindness, and sacrifice.
    (Ages 10 and up)

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  • We All Fall Down

    by Eric Walters

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    This middle grade novel begins on September 10, 2001. Ninth-grader Will is not looking forward to going to work with his dad at the World Trade Center tomorrow. He feels his dad doesn’t have an “exciting” job like his friend James’ dad, who is a firefighter, does. But on September 11, when a plane crashes into the North Tower, it’s his dad’s responsibility to get everybody out of the South. And when another plane then crashes into the South Tower, both Will and his dad’s lives are forever changed. Eric Walters’ compelling narrative provides a talking point between parents and middle grader readers.
    (Ages 10 and up)

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  • Love Is the Higher Law

    by David Levithan

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    Beloved YA author David Levithan (Every Day and Two Boys Kissing) weaves together the stories of three teens dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. While the day’s events affect Claire, Jasper, and Peter differently, each teen’s life changes forever. As they grow closer, they lean on each other for comfort and hope.
    (Young Adult)

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  • Hope and Other Punch Lines

    by Julie Buxbaum

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    Abbi became famous when a baby photo of her went viral after the World Trade Center attacks. Hoping for a peaceful summer away from the city, she takes a job as a camp counselor. But when a boy named Noah recognizes her and believes fate brought them together, they join forces and dig into the story behind the photo.
    (Young Adult)

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  • Up From the Sea

    by Leza Lowitz

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    After a tsunami destroys his village in Japan, Kai travels to the US. There, he meets teens who lived through the September 11 attacks and finds hope in seeing how they moved forward. This heart-wrenching YA novel is about finding the courage to heal and rebuild after a tragedy.
    (Young Adult)

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2022.