Over the past 10 years, many excellent books for children have been written about the 9-11 terrorist attacks. These books look at this unforgettable tragedy from a variety of fascinating perspectives.
by Jeanette Winter
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004
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For ages 6-9
Based on a true story, this picture book gives readers a sense of how people came together after 9-11. After the attacks, many people made makeshift shrines in New York's Union Square, and author Jeanette Winter visited to pay her respects and be with others who had witnessed the events. There she saw a beautiful display of roses making an outline of the two towers. The display was made by two sisters from Africa who came to New York for a flower show. They had been working for a long time on their roses and designs and came to New York with 2,400 roses ready for show, but when they got to New York, the attacks happened, and their show was canceled. So their roses found a home in Union Square.
Winter's sweet cursive handwriting and line drawings give the book a calm feel. The illustrations of the shrines are especially beautiful, as the only color is that of the sisters' roses.
An author's note is included at the beginning and end of the book telling how she came to know the story of the roses.
14 Cows for America
by Carmen Agra Deedy;
illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishers, 2009
For ages 8-12
This beautiful picture book tells the true story of a Kenyan student living in America on Sept. 11, 2001. Months later, Kimeli travels home and tells his Maasai village about the terrible tragedy he witnessed. Like Kimeli, his tribe is overwhelmed with emotion for people they have never met. The tribe decides to offer 14 sacred cows as a sacrifice to the American people. The cows would not be slaughtered but tended as a special herd in the Maasai village.
Illustrations done in pastels, colored pencil and airbrush capture the beauty of the African landscape as well as the heartfelt emotion of the Maasai people. Children will enjoy seeing the Maasai in their everyday clothes as well as the illustrations of the ceremonial costumes and headdresses.
A note from Kimeli is included at the end of the book. He includes a brief biography of his childhood and how he came to America to study medicine. Kimeli also recounts how significant both the cow and the act of sacrifice are to his people. This is a great story that teaches compassion and goodwill toward others.
September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City
By Wilborn Hampton
Candlewick Press, 2003
For ages 10 and up
This book gives the real-life accounts of several people who experienced the World Trade Center attacks. Included are accounts from ordinary citizens of New York, including those of a blind man who worked in the World Trade Center, the author himself and the firefighters who helped evacuate workers.
Other narratives include those of President George W. Bush, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers. Information is also given about Osama Bin Laden and al Queda. Black and white photographs illustrate the destruction in New York. An epilogue summarizes what happened after, including cleanup, recovery, military actions involving Afghanistan and the first anniversary.
These stories are both triumphant and tragic, and readers will get a real sense of what happened on that day.
Shine, Coconut Moon
By Neesha Meminger
Margaret K. McElderry
Samar has grown up with only her mother, never meeting her extensive Indian-American family. She thinks her American way of life is just fine the way it is until, just days after Sept. 11, her uncle comes to her and her mother make amends. Before this meeting, Samar knew little of her family's culture and heritage and is surprised that she feels a new sense of family and a need to learn about her past.
As she is discovering her heritage, she is shocked to experience subtle discrimination and prejudice, and when her uncle is harassed and called "Osama," she is more determined than ever to embrace the beauty of her culture.
Readers will enjoy this coming-of-age novel and understand the typical teenage emotions Samar also deals with -- friends, first love, etc. The story serves as a great example of perceptions and identities.
Love Is the Higher Law
By David Levithan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
Told in alternating voices, we hear the stories of New York teens Jasper, Claire and Peter starting on Sept. 11, 2001, and following them until the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks. On the day, Claire lives 10 blocks from the World Trade Center and is not allowed back to her house for a week. Jasper's parents become stranded in Korea visiting family. When the attacks happen, Peter is standing in line at the record store waiting to buy a CD.
The book contains adult themes: One of the characters is denied permission to give blood because he is gay. But the book's personal touches will help readers experience the day firsthand. For example, Jasper finds corporate paperwork from the towers that blew over New York after the planes hit. He says: "Picking them up and reading them, I felt a sadness so deep that it will never be gone."
This is an interesting look at the attacks from a local point of view. The author describes in a note at the end of the book that he is from New York and watched the tragedy from his office's rooftop, and how he gave the characters some of his own personal experiences.
Lisa Smant is assistant manager in the Youth Center at the downtown Fort Worth Public Library. Look for these books at your local library.