We Remember: Eight Children’s Books About September 11th

Eleven

Most of us remember the morning of September 11, 2001. Where we were; what we were doing; who we called. But as the 18th anniversary approaches, we find ourselves living in a time when many of our schoolchildren were either born after that date, or were too young at the time to remember the attacks. For those kids, here are eight thoughtful, sensitive children’s books about September 11, 2001.

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey, by Maira Kalman
In 1931, the John J. Harvey was the ultimate in fireboats, an essential part of the New York Fire Department. But times change, and by 2001, the Harvey was retired, destined for the scrap pile. Until September 11, when the fire hydrants at the attack site were inoperable, and the water of the Hudson River was needed to combat the burning buildings. With a little ingenuity, a team quickly got the John J. Harvey in working order, proving that she was still the best fireboat on the river. (Ages 4-8)

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein
Not about the September 11 attacks, this book is instead the story of Phillipe Petit, the tightrope artist who walked between the two towers, just as the World Trade Center was being completed in 1974. For today’s children, who have never seen the towers in anything but news footage, it’s a nice comparison and history of one of the most recognized parts of the Manhattan skyline prior to 2001. (Ages 4-8)

14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy and Thomas Gonzalez
In the aftermath of 9/11, not only did America mourn, but shockwaves were felt around the globe. Kimeli Naiyomah is a student in New York in September 2001. Upon returning to his Maasai village in Kenya, he recounts his experience, and his people immediately want to help. But what can a poor African village provide? The answer is powerful and touching, and demonstrates that sometimes the smallest gestures are the most deeply felt. (Ages 6-10)

America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell, by Don Brown
How to explain the events, emotions, and tragedy of that day to children who didn’t experience it? Don Brown does just that with this book. These are personal stories, humanizing the first responders, passengers, witnesses, and survivors that were part of that day, while still maintaining a straightforward account of events. The text is engaging, without being sensationalized, the tone direct, but compassionate. A good resource for both parents and teachers. (Ages 9-12)

Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story, by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Unlike many of its contemporaries, this book focuses less on the event itself, and more on the 48 hours leading up to it. We meet Aimee, recently moved to L.A and  struggling to adjust to her new school while her mother is away on business in New York. There’s Brooklyn-native Sergio, whose absentee father has shown up again and thrown Sergio into another round of turmoil. In Columbus, Ohio, Naheed has never felt uncomfortable about wearing her hijab in public, but at her new school, things are different. And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Will confronts the one-year anniversary of his father’s death. Four children, seemingly unconnected, spread across the country, each about to be profoundly impacted by a singular event. (Ages 8-12)

Just A Drop of Water, by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Jake has always looked up to his grandfather, a war hero who died serving his country. He knows he wants to follow in his footsteps one day, but for now, he’s focused on his cross-country team’s chance to beat their biggest rivals. But then September 11th happens, and Jake’s world flips upside down. Suddenly, the FBI descends upon his Florida town, his best friend is beaten up for being an Arab Muslim, and Jake discovers family secrets that challenge everything he thought he knew about himself. (Ages 8-12)

Eleven, by Tom Rogers
Nothing exciting ever happens to New Yorker Alex Douglas. Life is pretty much (boringly) normal. There’s his pesky sister, and school, and the ongoing battle to convince his parents that he’s responsible enough to own a dog. So on the morning of his 11th birthday, Alex is not expecting anything special. Then school is unexpectedly let out early. His mom is stuck at work, and calls to tell him not to turn on the TV, and to look out for his sister. And a four-legged companion shows up and won’t leave Alex alone. Turns out maybe this birthday will be anything but normal. (Ages 10-12)

Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
New school. New neighborhood. New home. (If you can call Avalon Family Residence “home”.) That’s where Deja lives in a single room with her parents and younger siblings, the communal bathroom is down the hall, and her dad is still sick with the unexplained coughing and nightmares. Deja doesn’t expect to like school, but to her surprise, she quickly makes friends with classmates Ben and Sabeen, and she likes her new teacher, Miss Garcia. On the other hand, there’s a lot Deja doesn’t know, a lot her classmates seem to know a lot more about. Including something to do with two towers that once stood on the other side of the East River. Miss Garcia says everyone is connected, to each other, and to those towers. But why should Deja care? What does ancient history have to do with her? A gorgeously told story by the award-winning author of Ninth Ward. (Ages 8-12)

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