Today marks 18 years since the terrorist attacks against our United States on September 11, 2001. In observation of this, I have compiled a list of book recommendations for those interested in educating their young children of this historical day, and for grade schooler and middle schoolers interested in learning about or commemorating this day.
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey, by Maira Kalman
The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboatof its time, but by 1995, the city didn’t need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames. In this inspiring true story, Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life and proves that old heroes never die.
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein
The story of a daring tightrope walk between skyscrapers, as seen in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, and–in two dramatic foldout spreads– the vertiginous drama of Petit’s feat. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is the winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal, the winner of the 2004 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Picture Books, and the winner of the 2006 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video.
Grade School Aged Books
I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001, by Lauren Tarshis (Author), Scott Dawson (Illustrator)
On the day that shocks the world, one boy just wants to find his dad. A powerful addition to the gripping I Survived series. The only thing Lucas loves more than football is his Uncle Benny, his dad’s best friend at the fire department 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. So 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. But just as Lucas arrives at his uncle’s firehouse, everything changes — and nothing will ever be the same again.
What Were the Twin Towers?, by Jim O’Connor (Author), Who HQ (Author), Ted Hammond (Illustrator)
Middle School Aged Books
Just a Drop of Water, by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Winner of the Crystal Kite Award, this touching story explores what it mean to be a good friend, how you should react to a bully, and makes the events of September 11th, 2001 personal. In this story about growing up in a difficult part of America’s history, Jake Green is introduced as a cross country runner who wants to be a soldier and an American hero when he grows up. Before he can work far towards these goals, September 11th happens, and it is discovered that one of the hijackers lives in Jake’s town. The children in Jake’s town try to process everything, but they struggle. Jake’s classmate Bobby beats up Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, just for being an Arab Muslim. According to his own code of conduct, Jake wants to fight Bobby for messing with his best friend. The situation gets more complicated when Sam’s father is detained and interrogated by the FBI. Jake’s mother doubts Sam’s father’s innocence. Jake must choose between believing his parents and leaving Bobby alone or defending Sam.
Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
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, Deja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. 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 Twin Towers? Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren’t alive to witness this defining moment in history but begin to realize how much it colors their everyday experience.