Posts Tagged Nine Ten A September 11 Story

International Day of Peace: Middle-Grade Books that Promote World Harmony

The International Day of Peace, established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly, is now celebrated worldwide every September 21.

international_peace_day_logoTo commemorate the message of the day, I’ve chosen to shine a light on a few middle-grade books that share themes of nonviolence, empathy, and dignity for all.

These books not only promote peace by highlighting the challenges of fighting against war, racism, poverty, etc., but they also underscore the importance of large and small acts of courage by individuals to create change and move toward a more harmonious world.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear about your favorite books on the subject in the comments section.

9780062377012Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Pennypacker’s novel, Pax (literally “peace” in Latin) was recently longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s literature. The story highlights peace by portraying the costs of war through the eyes of a boy and his beloved fox, Pax. Time magazine writes: “Pennypacker’s elegant language and insight into human nature spin a fable extolling empathy above all. By the novel’s poignant ending, Pennypacker has gently made the case that all of us should aspire to that view—children and adults alike.”

9781442485068Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Baskin’s novel tracks the stories of four children of different backgrounds before and after the tragedy of 9/11. While the characters have their own individual stories, they all share the fact that their lives were impacted by the event. The ending (spoiler alert) shows the characters, one year after the tragedy, at the memorial service in New York City. It’s a powerful scene demonstrating the courage of coming together in love and peace. Publishers Weekly writes: “Baskin focuses on how her characters emerge wiser, worldlier, and more sensitive to others’ pain after surviving a profound and tragic piece of history.”

9781629146133Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra

In Cerra’s book, also about 9/11, Jake’s life is turned upside down when the father of his best friend Sam is detained by the FBI after the attacks. Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, who is Muslim, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. In the end, Jake must decide: walk away from Sam and the revenge that a racist classmate has planned or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

9780316043069Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ten-year-old Sugar lives on the River Road sugar plantation along the banks of the Mississippi. Slavery is over, but laboring in the fields all day doesn’t make her feel very free. Thankfully, Sugar has a knack for finding her own fun, especially when she joins forces with forbidden friend Billy, the white plantation owner’s son. When Chinese workers are brought in to help harvest the cane, the older River Road folks feel threatened. But as Sugar befriends young Beau and elder Master Liu, they introduce her to the traditions of their culture, and she, in turn, shares the ways of plantation life. Sugar soon realizes that she must be the one to bridge the cultural gap and bring the community together.

9780888999597The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis

This volume contains Ellis’s three novels, The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, and Mud City. The Breadwinner is set in Afghanistan, where 11-year-old Parvana lives with her family in a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul. When her father is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, the family is left with no money or resources. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy and become the breadwinner. In Parvana’s Journey, her father has died and the family has scattered. Parvana, now 13 years old, is determined to find them. Again masquerading as a boy, she joins a group of wandering children, all refugees from war, who exist mainly on courage. In Mud City, the focus shifts to 14-year-old Shauzia, who lives in the Widows’ Compound in Pakistan and dreams of escaping to a new life in France. Ellis’s look at the human cost of war is also a story of hope and survival.

9780547577098Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family. Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

9780545464406Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

Red has just lost his father to a fatal attack, and everything is different in his life. And when Red comes to realize the racial injustices connected to his Virginia family and community, he’s faced with some hard challenges. Publishers Weekly writes: “(Erskine) frankly explores the difficulty in fighting a corrupt system, but also stresses the difference one individual—even a child—can make, providing hope that justice can prevail.”

9780547577319A Long Walk to Water (Based on a True Story )by Linda Sue Park

 A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

9781600606571Poems to Dream Together/Poemas Para So by Francisco X. Alarcon, illus. Paula Barragan

A young boy dreams that “all humans / and all living / beings / come together / as one big family / of the Earth.” As we travel through the boy’s colorful universe, we learn about his family and community working together and caring for each other and the world in which they live. Neighbors help repair adobe homes. The boy and his family share old photographs, tend their garden, and pamper Mama who “works day and night.” Tribute is paid to those who toil in the fields, and to Cesar Chavez. Most of all, we see how dreams can take many forms, from the fantastic imaginary ones that occur while we sleep to the realistic ones that guide our lives and give us inspiration for the endless possibilities of the future.

9780805089967Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Illustrated with handmade quilts, these poems explore various notions of peace. Some, written from a child’s point of view, explore themes of fighting with a sibling and bullying on the playground. Other poems, using personification, are narrated by a house in turmoil and peace itself. The collection compels the reader to act with compassion, respect, and hope. Back matter highlights famous peacemakers such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, and Jimmy Carter, as well as a few lesser-known advocates.

9780525477341Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben

Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Nobel Prize winner, Dr.Wangari Maathai, are some of the people Zalbren chose to represent different eras and parts of the globe. Many started down their path to peace during childhood, and all challenge us to think about improving the lives of others. Also included are art notes, a glossary, a bibliography, further reading, and an index, making it an excellent resource for teachers and students.

What are your favorite books that promote peace?

Dorian Cirrone is the co-regional advisor for the Florida Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has written several books for children and teens. Her most recent middle-grade novel, The First Last Day (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin), is available wherever books are sold. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story–Nora Raleigh Baskin Interview and Giveaway

9781442485068-1

I’m thrilled to welcome author Nora Raleigh Baskin to From the Mixed-Up Files. Today is the release date of her newest novel, Nine, Ten: A September 11 Storywhich has already received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Nora about her work as a writer. Read on for the interview, as well as more about her, the novel, and how you could win an autographed copy!

 

When did you first get the idea to write about September 11, and how long did it take you to determine what you wanted to say about the event?

Well, I don’t know that I had anything specific to “say,” and certainly not to “teach” about the event, other than I wanted to re-create the moment it happened, or more precisely, the hours just before it happened. My goal for this book was to raise questions, rather than present answers. Of course, I’m human and I have my own perceptions and biases, but I try very, very hard not to use my characters that way.

My interest in writing about 9/11 was to write about “change.” I wanted to show the world we knew before, and the world after. There are many events in our collective American history so profound, they altered everything we knew, or thought we knew, to be true. I could have chosen any number of them; Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, the sinking of the Lusitania — moments when our innocence (or naiveté) was lost. I chose the one I remembered, the one I had actually experienced.

Did you plan from the beginning to have four narrators or is that something that evolved once you started writing?

Interesting question because yes, in fact, I had the structure before I had anything else. I was watching a movie called Bobby, about the day before Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. When that happened, in 1968, I was seven years old, too young to understand what ended that day, but I grew up in a culture that was forever altered.

The movie follows several unconnected characters (except that they all find themselves in that same Los Angeles hotel) and each story reveals something about the specific time period in which they all live; feminism, racism, the drug culture, and of course, the political landscape.

In Nine, Ten I worked very hard to do the same thing with each of my four characters, but in a way that requires work on the part of my readers. For example, Naheed clearly foreshadows the bigotry Muslim Americans faced after 9/11. Aimee is in the story to represent all the It-would-have-been-me-but (fill in the blank) stories that came out of that day. Sergio’s story touches on the first responders, because no one can talk about 9/11 without thinking about those dedicated men and women. But the very hardest to connect was Will’s section, against the context of Flight 93 and the passengers that rose up against the hijackers. I wanted to speak to the concept of bravery and heroism, which is not a cut and dry, black and white, either or, issue.

I want my readers to think, and come to their own conclusions. I expect my readers to tax their brains a little when they read a book of mine.

The movie, Bobby, never hits you over the head with its agenda (although I am balling my eyes out when its over), but allows the everyday stories of everyday people to reveal themselves as profound. It was powerful, and I was so terribly excited to try and attempt the same thing in a written work.

P.S. If I had known how hard it was going to be, I might not have tried!

Without giving the ending away, how soon after getting the idea for the novel did you know how your narrators would finally cross paths?

Ah, another interesting question. No, I never thought they would cross paths again, until … well, I got to the end. It was so overwhelming, my own need for hope and redemption, that the ending was almost forced on me. I knew, as I was writing it, that there was a sentimental factor, but it felt right. And everyone I showed it to agreed. So it stayed. The ending truly sprang from my heart.

Another P.S. As unlikely as it may seem that four people who never know each other cross paths more than once in their lives, it is an idea I am fascinated by, and I believe happens much more than we ever realize. Kurt Vonnegut even invented a word for it in Cat’s Cradle.

Karass: A group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident.

On your website, you mention that your writing is a vehicle of sorts for your own self-discovery and healing. How did writing this novel facilitate that discovery and healing?

Well, I cried a lot while I was researching this story. I had no idea how close to the surface these memories were, and how unprocessed they still are. I imagine that will be true for many of us who are old enough to remember (of course, my young readers were not yet born.) Because of this, none of my main characters lose anyone during the course of the book. As my editor said, there is enough loss in the premise itself.

It’s funny, or maybe not so funny, but as I get older I find myself reaching past self-discovery and my own need to heal my personal story, and out to the world at large. My kids are grown, my life is now stable and safe, and lord knows I’ve mined my family history plenty, so now I sense a greater, larger family.

What I mean is that I finally feel whole enough, to start telling the stories of other—not so autobiographical—characters. The healing that happens now is in discovering how connected we humans are. We are truly more alike than we are different, and I see this as the path my writing journey is now taking me.

You’ve published consistently since your first book in 2001. Were there ever any times when the writing didn’t flow or the ideas didn’t come so readily? If so, what got you back on track?

Ha! No, the writing always comes. It’s the publishing that doesn’t always flow so easily. 🙁

Can you tell us two of your best writing tips?

If I have to give only two … I’d say: Write from your heart. Every story has already been told, but no one can tell your story.

And … Finish what you start. You never know if your story is good or not, until you’ve finished that sucky first draft and get to work on revising.

So finish. There is so much learning from just doing that!

IMG_0646 (1)Nora Raleigh Baskin is the author of thirteen novels for young readers and has won several awards including the 2010 ALA Schneider Family Book Award for Anything But Typical. She has taught creative writing to both children and adults for over fifteen years with organizations such as SCBWI, The Unicorn Writers Conference, Gotham Writers Workshop, and The Fairfield County Writers’ Workshop. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Good news! Nora has generously offered an autographed copy of the novel to raffle off to one lucky winner who shares this post on Facebook or Twitter. Read about the novel and how to win it below.

nine tenAsk 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.

Tell me in the comments section where you shared by Thursday, June 30 at midnight. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, July 2. (Continental U.S. only, please.)

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin) released this month and is available wherever books are sold. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/