Monday will be the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. All adults remember that Tuesday. Where they were when they heard the news. How they felt. What they did.
But kids can’t remember, of course. Mine weren’t even born yet. For them, 9/11 is history. Not all that different from Pearl Harbor or Gettysburg or the Alamo.
Fiction is a great way for kids to learn about other times and places. Novels about the recent past are rare, though.
Luckily for today’s kids, there are two new middle grade novels that address the events of September 11 and the impact they had on the people of the United States. These novels fittingly manage to be both sad and hopeful.
Dèja has just moved into a homeless shelter with her sick father, her overworked mother, and her two younger siblings. The 5th grade teacher in her new school assigns a project relating to September 11.
Although she’s lived in New York her whole life, Dèja knows nothing about 9/11, and she wonders why she should care about something that happened before she was born. With the help of her new friends, Ben and Sabeen, she learns how those events still affect her country, her city, and her family.
It focuses on four middle schoolers of different genders, races and religions: Will in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Aimee in Los Angeles, California, Sergio in Brooklyn, New York, and Naheed in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s the story of these four individual kids and the challenges they’re facing before the events of 9/11. It’s about the ways their lives intersect in unexpected ways. And it’s about the difference between “before” and “after”.