The best books for ages 8 to 12 about September 11th

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of over fifty books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, My Name is Hamburger, Never Say a Mean Word Again, and Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. On September 11, 2001, I was living in Arlington, Virginia and working as a librarian. Like anyone else who lived through that tragic day, September 11th evokes strong memories for me. Yet I know that subsequent generations have little knowledge of that day, even those who live in Arlington, where the Pentagon is located.  By recognizing the wounds of the past, we can help young readers understand the present. 

I wrote...

Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember

By Jacqueline Jules, Eszter Anna Racz (illustrator),

Book cover of Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember

What is my book about?

On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. One hundred and eighty-four innocent people were killed. The event was part of a coordinated terrorist attack against the United States involving four hijacked flights.

Author Jacqueline Jules, a librarian living in Arlington, Virginia on 9/11, tells the story of that day through a tapestry of poems. These poems tell the stories of young people from all aspects of the Arlington and Pentagon communities and are composites drawn from personal experiences with students and friends residing in Northern Virginia at the time of the attack. September 11th changed childhoods. Anyone old enough to remember that day will never forget, but today's children need to be told the story.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth

Jacqueline Jules Why did I love this book?

The September 11th terrorist attack is a difficult history to introduce.

Picture books can be a good way to start the conversation, especially with 8 and 9-year-olds. In This Very Tree, Sean Rubin broaches the topic through a remarkable Callery pear tree in the Twin Towers plaza which survived the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Rubin’s poignant artwork conveys both the destruction of that terrible day in New York City and the rebuilding efforts afterwards. Informative and lengthy back matter provides more information to complement the brief illustrated text. This picture book leaves the reader with an ultimately hopeful outlook of resilience and renewal. 

By Sean Rubin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Very Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A deeply moving story about community and resilience, from the point-of-view of the Callery pear tree that survived the attacks on September 11, from Eisner Award-nominated author-illustrator Sean Rubin.

* "A resonant, beautifully rendered testament to life and renewal." ―Kirkus, starred review

In the 1970s, nestled between the newly completed Twin Towers in New York City, a Callery pear tree was planted. Over the years, the tree provided shade for people looking for a place to rest and a home for birds, along with the first blooms of spring.

On September 11, 2001, everything changed. The tree’s home was destroyed,…

Book cover of America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell

Jacqueline Jules Why did I love this book?

This nonfiction picture book is a straightforward account of what happened on September 11, 2001. Students desiring information for a report or personal knowledge will find an excellent chronological overview.

Illustrations depict the events with muted colors in a tasteful, not graphic manner. Readers are introduced to the stories of individuals who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers and those who did not. Direct quotes from eyewitnesses and first responders provide an immediacy in the retelling of events.

Presented as one long narrative, the compelling text invites the reader to read the full story without interruption.

By Don Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America Is Under Attack as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

One of School Library Journal's Best Nonfiction Books of 2011One of Horn Book's Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

On the ten year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, a straightforward and sensitive book for a generation of readers too young to remember that terrible day.

The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world forever. In the fourth installment of the Actual Times series, Don Brown narrates the events of the day in a way that is both accessible and understandable for young readers. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the morning, from the terrorist plane hijackings to…

Book cover of Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Jacqueline Jules Why did I love this book?

This novel follows four adolescents in the 48 hours preceding September 11, 2001.

The characters are two girls and two boys living in different parts of the United States in very different families. By fully depicting the lives of each character before the world abruptly changed, Baskin shows us how a watershed event changes one’s perspective forever.

My favorite moment comes at the end when a character remembers “that day, a year ago, when nothing else was important to her except fitting in.” Without violence or direct loss to the main characters, Baskin brings home the point that September 11th affected Americans from all across the country.

In the face of tragedy, Baskin shows us how we are all interconnected.

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 Ground Zero

Jacqueline Jules Why did I love this book?

Told in alternating chapters, Ground Zero takes places eighteen years apart, through the eyes of a boy experiencing the terrorist attacks and a girl living through the Afghanistan war which followed.

On September 11, 2001, Brandon is visiting his father on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center when the planes hit. On that same date in 2019, Reshmina faces a battle in her Afghan village and the decision of whether to help a wounded American soldier.

This novel is a page turner which does not gloss over the horrors of the World Trade Center collapse or the Afghanistan War. When the stories of the two main characters intersect at the end, the reader is given a lot to think about. 

By Alan Gratz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ground Zero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Ground Zero is a number one New York Times
The plot starts at a heart-pounding pace and never relents...
A contemporary history lesson with the uplifting message
that humanity's survival depends on us working for, not against,
one another. A must-have. - School Library

In time for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, master
storyteller Alan Gratz (Refugee) delivers a pulse-pounding
and unforgettable take on history and hope, revenge and fear -
and the stunning links between the past and present.

September 11, 2001, New York City: Brandon is visiting his dad
at work, on the 107th floor of…

Book cover of Towers Falling

Jacqueline Jules Why did I love this book?

Towers Falling takes place in New York City fifteen years after the terrorist attacks.

Fifth grader Deja has no idea what happened in 2001 or the impact it has had on the present. When her teacher begins a unit on September 11th, Deja’s father becomes angry. He doesn’t want Deja to know what happened to the Twin Towers. With the help of classmates, Deja unravels the history of her city and her family.

The perspective of a child learning about the September 11th attacks from the distance of time is made all the more powerful by Deja’s personal circumstances, living in a homeless shelter with an ailing father. This is a poignant story with a strong main character learning to live with the past and move forward. 

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Towers Falling 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?

When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Deja can't help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?

Award-winning author Jewell…

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Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

By Kerry Aradhya, Kara Kramer (illustrator),

Book cover of Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

Kerry Aradhya Author Of Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Not long ago, while rummaging through old storage containers in our garage, I came across a board game I had invented during elementary school. But I hadn’t made it for a school project or because anyone had asked me to make it. I had made it simply because I was passionate about creating…and I still am. As a children’s author, science editor, and dancer, I am fascinated by the creative process. I chose these books because they depict many of the ups, downs, and often unexpected outcomes of the creative process, all within the context of inventions for kids!

Kerry's book list on nonfiction picture books with inventions kids love

What is my book about?

This picture book biography of Ernő Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube, reveals the obsession, imagination, and engineering process behind the creation of this fascinating and sometimes frustrating puzzle.

A solitary child, Ernő Rubik grew up in post-World War II Hungary, curious about puzzles, art, nature, and their underlying patterns and structures.

As a young professor of architecture, and in a quest to help his students understand three-dimensional movement, he fashioned a cube made up of smaller cubes that twisted and turned without breaking, unexpectedly inventing the most popular puzzle in history!

Ernő Rubik and His Magic Cube

By Kerry Aradhya, Kara Kramer (illustrator),

What is this book about?

This first picture book biography of Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube, reveals the obsession, imagination, and engineering process behind the creation of a bestselling puzzle that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.

In 2023, the world record for solving the Rubik’s Cube was broken by Max Park, who finished in 3.13 seconds!

And then there’s you. Did you ever get so frustrated with a Rubik’s Cube that you wanted to pull it apart and put it back together in order? Were you to do so, you’d see how cleverly one of the world’s most popular toys is…

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