Remembering 9-11 — 20 Years Later
It’s hard to grasp the fact that it’s been 20 years–and a whole generation of readers has been born since the horrific events of September 11, 2001 unfolded in New York City, Washington, D.C, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It can be challenging for those of us who lived through this to teach it as history–the pain can still seem so present, especially given the current context of our exit from Afghanistan.
For teachers, librarians, and homeschooling parents looking for books to help illustrate 9-11 lessons, here are some ideas for middle-grade books:
Saadia Faruqi, YUSUF AZEEM IS NOT A HERO (Quill Tree, 2021)
Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas—and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.
Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.
With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice?
Alan Gratz, GROUND ZERO (Scholastic, 2021)
When 9-year-old Brandon Cruz goes to work with his father the morning of September 11, 2001, he has no idea they’ll be at GROUND ZERO for a terrorist attack. Brandon’s not in school because he’s been suspended for punching a kid who stole a pair of Wolverine gloves from one of his friends. Leaving his father at work on the 107th floor of the North Tower, Brandon heads down to the Tower’s underground mall to buy a replacement pair. He’s in an elevator when the first plane hits and becomes a hero when he helps save the other passengers. Desperate to find his father, Brandon tries to make his way up back up to the 107th floor. On the way, he finds himself in need of rescue. He’s saved by a man named Richard, who becomes his friend and guardian as they try to escape a building collapsing around them. Eighteen years later, 11-year-old Reshmina and her family are dealing with the aftermath of that attack — constant battles between the Taliban and American soldiers who have been in Afghanistan since December 2001. Her twin brother, Pasoon, is determined to join the Taliban, and Reshmina seems powerless to stop him. After a firefight between the Taliban and American soldiers, Reshima finds the only American survivor, a young soldier named Taz. Risking everything, her family offers him shelter — a decision they may regret as a fierce battle begins between the Americans and the Taliban. (From Common Sense Media)
Jewell Parker Rhodes, TOWERS FALLING (Little Brown, 2016)
When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Dèja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?
Nora Raleigh Baskin, NINE, TEN (Atheneum Books 2016)
Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center.
But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.
These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day—the day our world changed forever.
Lauren Tarshis with illustrator Corey Egbert, I SURVIVED THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 (Graphic Novel #4) (Graphix, 2021)
The only thing Lucas loves more than football is his Uncle Benny, his dad’s best friend at the firehouse where they both work. Benny taught Lucas everything about football. So when Lucas’s parents decide the sport is too dangerous and he needs to quit, Lucas has to talk to his biggest fan.
The next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright, beautiful day in New York as he heads to the firehouse. But just as he arrives, everything changes — and nothing will ever be the same again.