The best books for kids about 9/11

Who am I?

I’m a screenwriter and novelist who loves writing stories for kids! (And long-suffering parents.) I mostly write and produce animated movies and TV shows, am currently executive producer of The Chicken Squad for Disney, and won an Emmy® Award for children’s TV writing in 2020. A few years ago, my nephew stopped me in my tracks with a question: “Uncle T, what’s the big deal about 9/11?” His confusion opened my eyes to the fact that many schools don’t teach about this momentous event. “Never forget” has been our national refrain, but how will future generations remember if we don’t tell them the story? 


I wrote...

Eleven

By Tom Rogers,

Book cover of Eleven

What is my book about?

Alex Douglas begs his parents to get him a dog for his eleventh birthday. But when his dad says he’s not responsible enough, Alex yells at him and goes to bed angry. The next day—9/11, Alex’s birthday—the world changes forever.

This coming-of-age tale follows Alex on his journey throughout this complicated day. It’s about a selfish kid who learns to be kind, a picked-on kid who learns to be strong, who rescues a stray dog, who takes care of his little sister, and who desperately hopes his dad will come home so he can take back the words he said in anger. “Rogers’ riveting debut middle-grade novel” (Kirkus) is carried by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and is taught in schools around the world.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001

Tom Rogers Why did I love this book?

For those of us who lived through 9/11, it’s easy to forget that kids in school today weren’t even born in 2001; to them, the events of 9/11 are ancient history. I Survived is the kind of book that can jump-start their interest by dropping them right into the thick of the events of that day. Lucas is a football-obsessed teen who makes a series of completely relatable bad decisions that leave him right at Ground Zero just as the planes hit the towers. Told in age-appropriate but heart-stopping detail, this book captures a perfect snapshot of the confusion, fear, heroism, and resolve on display that extraordinary day. 

By Lauren Tarshis, Scott Dawson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

On the day that shocks the world, one boy just wants to find his family. A powerful addition to the gripping I Survived series.

The only thing Lucas loves more than football is his Uncle Benny, his dad's best friend at the fire department where they both work. Benny taught Lucas everything about football. So when Lucas's parents decide the sport is too dangerous and he needs to quit, Lucas has to talk to his biggest fan.So the next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It's a bright, beautiful day in New…


Book cover of Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Tom Rogers Why did I love this book?

Nora’s book expands the story of 9/11 by going backward. Set in the days preceding the attacks, the book follows the lives of four boys and girls of varying means and ethnicities scattered around the country, as their seemingly disconnected lives are about to surprisingly intersect on this fateful day. 

I love how the book captures the innocence of that pregnant moment but also how the story focuses on what emerged from that tragedy: empathy, connection, humanity. Unfolding in the shadow of what we know is coming, the book is foreboding without being heavy, works best when kids already have a grounding in the events of 9/11, and can be a great follow-up to my book.

By Nora Raleigh Baskin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nine, Ten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a "tense...and thought-provoking" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.

Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day-until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he…


Book cover of Just a Drop of Water

Tom Rogers Why did I love this book?

As Nora Baskin’s book takes us backward in time, Kerry moves forward to capture the mood of the country after the attacks, as told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy whose best friend becomes the target of anti-Muslim rage. Like Alex in my book, protagonist Jake Green grapples with intense feelings of anger, confusion, and frustration as he tries to figure out how to be a patriot and what it means to be a hero, when everything he thought he understood about how the world should work has been shattered. I struggled with the same things after 9/11—still do, to be honest—and enjoyed this page-turner for both its gripping plot and its challenging moral complexity.

By Kerry O'Malley Cerra,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Just a Drop of Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Crystal Kite Award, this touching story explores what it mean to be a good friend, how you should react to a bully, and makes the events of September 11th, 2001 personal.

In this story about growing up in a difficult part of America's history, Jake Green is introduced as a cross country runner who wants to be a soldier and an American hero when he grows up.

Before he can work far towards these goals, September 11th happens, and it is discovered that one of the hijackers lives in Jake's town. The children in Jake's town try…


Book cover of The Memory of Things

Tom Rogers Why did I love this book?

Racing away from Ground Zero, 16-year-old Kyle encounters a bizarre sight: an angel, clinging to the Brooklyn Bridge. Kyle stops to help and discovers the “angel” is a teenage girl, her wings a costume from a school play. But the girl doesn’t remember anything about who she is. Thus begins a quest that pulls Kyle in conflicting directions: to find his dad (a first responder), to care for his uncle (a disabled cop), and to help this girl find her way home.

I love that the book begins with an act of kindness to a stranger, something we saw often after 9/11. And while we sometimes say we’d love to forget an event like 9/11, Gae’s book bears witness to the need to remember.

By Gae Polisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Memory of Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen year old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story,…


Book cover of Talking Texts: A Teachers' Guide to Book Clubs across the Curriculum

Tom Rogers Why did I love this book?

Nothing brings a classroom alive like an engaged and enthusiastic teacher! The best ones know how to guide their students into the heart of a text to make discoveries and connections on their own. I have done hundreds of school visits (virtual and in-person), and I love watching kids beam with pride as they reveal something they’ve learned from reading my book or come to a revelation through our chat. 

Lesley Roessing’s book is not a work of fiction – but it’s an invaluable tool to help teachers guide young readers through the books on this list. The final section of the book is a sample 9/11 book club using all the books on my list (and many more). Any teacher drawn to this list would be well-served by Lesley’s insightful lesson plans.

By Lesley Roessing,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Talking Texts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Talking Texts is a guide for teachers to the steps and strategies of implementing text clubs in many forms- fiction and nonfiction book clubs, textbook clubs, article clubs, and even poetry clubs-in the classroom. All strategies presented are applicable to any discipline so that text clubs can be employed across the curriculum in any grade level.


You might also like...

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


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