The best books for kids about 9/11

The Books I Picked & Why

I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001

By Lauren Tarshis, Scott Dawson

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

Why 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. 

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Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

By Nora Raleigh Baskin

Book cover of Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Why 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.

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Just a Drop of Water

By Kerry O'Malley Cerra

Book cover of Just a Drop of Water

Why 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.

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The Memory of Things

By Gae Polisner

Book cover of The Memory of Things

Why 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 vet), 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.

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

By Lesley Roessing

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

Why 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.

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