A selection of poignant reads

Tween 9/11 stories that moved me

Hi everyone, this week I’m featuring a short selection of tween reads that touch on an event that has shaped our world in the last few decades and its impact on the young people today, especially those who identify as Muslims. I’m talking about the events that transpired on that fateful day on September 11th, 2001.  Some of the titles I have selected for this week talk about the lives of Muslim tweens during that time…

These titles had a profound impression on me as I learned so much about the resilience, strength, and courage these young protagonists endured then. 

cover image of boy's foot running on puddle of water. image of American flag, red and white stripes with blue and white stars. background cream colour. red letters at bottom reads Just a drop of water.
An engaging read

Title: Just a drop of water

Author: Kerry O’Malley Cerra

What this book is about: Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died saving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart – and outrun – the rival cross country team. But then the tragedy of Sept 11 happens, and it’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hotspot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. In the end, Jake must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

My review: This was a truly inspirational read for this debut writer. Kerry O’Malley Cerra captures the mood in America right after Sept 11 in a way that’s not frightening or sensationalized, but seen and felt through the eyes of a middle grade boy. She hits on some very important issues that people still to this day go through. I really like how she ended the story. For me, it’s about Jake’s friendship with Sam, and how it evolved during this period in time in America that has been written into the history books. The characters are very memorable and I really admire the way they confront the darker side of their community, their families and their hearts.

cover image of three kids along bottom edge. girl with long dark hair in pink sweater in middle. right girl with red scarf walking and boy in yellow hoodie on left. bright blue background has large white letters in middle reading Nine, ten and plane right at top. dark black printed letters under 'ten' reads A September 11 story.
A poignant read

Title: Nine, ten: a September 11 story

Author: Nora Raleigh Buskin

What this book is about: Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day – until 8.46am, when a plane struck the World Trade Center. But that hasn’t happened yet. 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 hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school, she’s getting funny looks because of the headscarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business. These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in many ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Buskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day – the day our world changed forever. 

My review: What a powerful story this was!! It conveyed in such amazing, flowing prose; all those anxieties and emotions that rose that day. What I liked the most of all was that Nora Raleigh Buskin kept all the families of the kids together and they didn’t directly lose anyone in 9/11. Hearing Naheed’s story and of her family was also very enlightening. I know first hand that those Muslim civilians living in the US at the time suffered much abuse and threats due to the fear in people. Despite brimming tears and fears of someone losing a parent, I really loved this story; especially at the end where all those kids, Will and Sergio with the firefighters all stormed to stand in front of Naheed’s family in unity and it brought fresh tears. A really good story to breach the topic of discrimination and equality. 

cover image of skyline of New York city now and before 9/11 with twin towers looming underneath like white towers in bright blue sea. large black letters across buildings reads Towers Falling.
An engaging read

Title: Towers falling

Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

What this book is about: For fifth grader Deja, it’s tough enough starting school in a new neighbourhood. Projects about her home and family only highlight how different she is from her classmates. When Miss Garcia suggests that all her assignments have something to do with the two towers missing from the skyline out their classroom windows, Deja is just confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But as she gets closer to figuring it all out – who she is, what it means to be American, and how her community can grow (and heal?) – she uncovers new questions, too? Like, why does Pop get so angry whenever she mentions the towers? Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a story of resilience, hope, and finding myself in a sophisticated world.

My review: A truly touching and moving story of identity and what it means to be an American!! This book touches on more than the impact of 9/11 on young children growing up in New York and highlights homelessnes as well. Jewell Parker Rhodes has created a memorable read in this book with a cast of characters you won’t be able to help but fall in love with. I found it quite fascinating that children growing up after 2011 will have no idea of the magnitude of that event and what it truly meant. 

cover image of young boy with glasses reading red book. large blue-white letters at bottom reads Yusuf Azeem is not a hero. small image of boy in school hallway with blue lockers. night sky above.
An interesting school story

Title: Yusuf Azeem is not a hero

Author: Saadia Faruqi

What this book is about: Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas – and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, where he just knows he can win. Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought because this year is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – an anniversary that has everyone in his family on edge. After reading his uncle’s journal from that time, Yusuf feels like he almost understands what that nationwide fear and anger felt like. But when certain people in town start to say hateful things to Yusuf and his community, he realizes that the anger hasn’t gone away. And soon he will have to stand up to the bullies, with understanding, justice, and love.

My review: Oh what a powerful read this was!! A young boy traverses his way through prejudice and profiling during a time when the scars of the past still remain raw. I loved how Saadia Faruqi took us into the life of young Yusuf and showed us how much, or how little, attitudes have changed since the 9/11 attacks. I really loved the classroom scenes and especially the ones with his robotics club. For me, Yusuf, is a true hero after he stood up for his friends. I enjoyed reading his uncle’s journal entries from 2001 as he lived through the events soon after 9/11. I felt as though they gave the story a different layer. Many important themes of bullying, tolerance, and prejudice are addressed here in this book. 

I have given all these books a rating of 5

Well, there you have a short selection of 9/11 tween reads from me. I’d love to hear if you have read anything similar.

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

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