By Nora Raleigh Baskin. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 208 pages. $16.99/hardcover; $7.99/paperback (released May 16, 2017); $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 8–12.
The introduction to this book gives a hint as to what comes next. My immediate thought was: I wonder how this story would land for me if I had not experienced that fateful day, September 11, 2001. I would think that the target audience for this book is that demographic: children who were not alive for that awful happening. It is written for those who have heard 9/11 mentioned or discussed but weren’t there and still may not be ready to know or understand the lasting implications of that day. The subtitle, A September 11 Story, does give fair warning so whoever chooses to read this book does have an idea of the destination.
The author’s format of personal stories of kids all over the country on the two days preceding 9/11 is clever and telling. Sergio in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Aimee in Los Angeles, Calif.; Naheed in Columbus, Ohio; and Will in Shanksville, Pa., are the four subjects. Each has their own little worrisome problem to face. They cope and don’t cope in different ways, and each story will probably resonate with the audience. I found the characters to be equally compelling. That is not an easy task, and the author did a great job. She also did a good job of using their stories to illustrate situations that were age appropriate and totally possible. Chapter by chapter you read about our four characters and their families. Not all of the stories have a “Cinderella” ending, but all have a bit of a resolution.
The book ends at the one-year anniversary memorial in lower Manhattan. This is where my incredulity kicked in. While well explained and written, I just wonder if these four kids would have been in the same place at the same time on that emotionally wrought day. They were! All there all together being wonderful American kids. Perhaps I am too much of a cynic. Perhaps I would read it differently if I were eleven years old and wanting desperately to have a happy ending. Who knows? Be advised.
Even with this cynical criticism, I think the book has much to offer in making that tragic event real for those who were not here to experience it. There are many avenues of discussion to be pursued. Our four characters are diverse in religion, race, socioeconomic class, and geographic location. Each story is compelling and plausible. I think the telling of this tale does provide food for thought and opportunity to discuss the event, as well as some other everyday problems that middle school students face. It certainly would be a welcome addition to any meeting library.