I think every American has a 9/11 story. They remember where they were and who they were with. I was in the 3rd grade when the Twin Towers fell and knew that something significant happened but didn’t fully understand the implications or just how everything was going to change.
It’s been two decades since that fateful day, and it’s important to not only look back but also to educate the next generation on this world-changing event. That one day eliminated the innocence of millions, and we’re still feeling the fallout today. It really takes time for perspective to set in, and I think the following books that tell the impact of 9/11 through the eyes of children will resonate.
I always turn to books to make sense of the world. And while a book cannot answer every question, they can help us understand. Middle school is a transition point for so many children, which is why I think it’s important to have books such as these for middle schoolers to help make sense of the world they will eventually have control over as adults.
Note: The following books may contain sensitive information about 9/11 and address issues such as loss, racism, and trauma.
Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
This story tracks the lives of four children as they cope with growing up, school, and family. Everyone remembers the day of 9/11, but the story actually begins a few days earlier and follows: Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn and has an absentee father; Will, whose father was killed in a car accident; Nadira, who must content with being a young hijabi Muslim girl in America; and Amy, who is starting at a new school and is missing her mother in New York City.
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Towers Falling follows Deja and her friends Sabeen and Ben as they conduct research for a school project that should answer why the towers that were once visible outside their classroom are now gone. Deja is confused by the project and sets out with her friends to find some answers, especially to find out why her Pop gets so angry at the mere mention of the towers.
Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan and Thomas Gonzalez
This story follows the passage of the USS New York, a navy ship that received a steel beam that was once inside of the Twin Towers. The beam was morphed and forged to become the bow of the ship, a transition that symbolizes how tragedy can create something extraordinary.
The Places We Sleep by Caroline Brooks DuBois
Abbey is the new kid at school, arriving early in September 2001. Her dad works for the Army, and his Base is in Tennessee. Abbey does find a friend at school, but 9/11 changes everything, and her family must face the possibility of her father headed to active duty.
Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Americans of course view 9/11 through the context of America. However, that fateful day was felt around the world, including Japan. Ema’s life is split between Japan and America, and her life is about to get more complicated once her baby sibling arrives. Circumstances mean that Ema begins school in Japan and then watches the tragedy of 9/11 unfurl an ocean away, forcing her to see her mother grieve.
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
The country other than America that felt the most immediate impact of 9/11 has to be Afghanistan, which was invaded not long after. Shooting Kabul follows Fadi and his family as they attempt to escape Afghanistan and move to America. Unfortunately, in the chaos of leaving, the family is split from their daughter, Mariam, and everyone must cope with the loss while also adjusting to life in a post-9/11 America.
Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Jake Green is just trying to be the best cross country runner he can possibly be. But after 9/11, his hometown becomes a hotspot for the FBI when it’s discovered that one of the hijackers lived there. What’s more, Jake’s best friend is targeted by a bully for being an Arab Muslim. It’s hard to contextualize just how 9/11 changed everyday life, and Just a Drop of Water provides this information through the lens of a young boy.
Eleven by Tom Rogers
On his 11th birthday, Alex rescues a stray dog, who he names Radar. It also happens that Alex’s birthday falls on September 11, a day that not only changes his life forever, but that of his country’s.