Sunday, August 7, 2016

Book Review: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

I had been scrolling around on Instagram one afternoon when I came across a post that showed the cover of the book Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. The user said that she'd seen it recommended all over Instagram and was going to start reading it that day.

Of course I downloaded it right away.  As I began reading, I thought about how hard a topic September 11th is to teach to fifth graders, especially at the beginning of the school year.  They are still so little, you don't have a close relationship just yet, and you don't know what they do and don't know about that day.  I was hoping that this book might be a way for me to teach September 11th in a way that is grown up enough for brand new middle graders, but also still gentle enough for brand new middle graders.

The story opens up in Chicago airport on September 9th, introducing the four middle school students whose point of view the reader follows throughout the book.  Their paths unwittingly cross on that day and then separate back to their normal lives and normal problems as a Muslim girl in Ohio, an African American boy in Brooklyn, a girl who has just moved from New York to California and a boy living in Shanksville, PA.  The rest of the story follows these children in the 48 hours that preceded September 11th and then their experiences on that day.  I felt that the author truly captured how quickly all of our lives changed, making our big problems seem so small and brought back my own memories as a college student, sitting in class and hearing the news that the first tower had been hit.  Just like some of the children in this story, I was told that class would go on, only for the second tower to be hit and to be sent home.  Home was student housing hundreds of miles away from my family on Long Island, and practically unable to get in touch with them as phone lines became overwhelmed.  For the character Sergio, a Brooklyn native, going home meant witnessing the damage of the attacks first hand, while worrying about his new friend, a New York City firefighter.  Baskin never goes into too graphic detail, but does retell scenes that one might have seen on the news.

Overall, I felt that Baskin clearly captured what we all felt on September 11th, whether as a middle school student or adult.  It was difficult at first to keep track of all of the characters, but each lent something unique to the story, and I appreciated that they were from around the country and showed how it didn't matter how close you lived to one of the crash sites to be affected as an American.  I feel like this would be an excellent read for middle grades students, either on their own or with their parents.  Children born post 9/11 are quite used to adults telling them about September 11th, but this book should speak to them in that it is told from the perspective of children their age.

And, if you should have the opportunity, take your school aged children to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.  My husband and I went with our then 6 year old son in 2015. There were a few exhibits we excluded him from, but overall, it was an educational experience for all of us.  So many years had passed, and we always say "never forget" but we had forgotten.  The memorial was filled with people and yet it was perfectly silent.  It felt awkward to take photos, so the only one I took was of the piece "Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on that September Morning" by Spencer Finch.  Here is a link to a New York Times article that tells all about the artist and piece.  It is huge and truly breathtaking.  It is true that everyone always talks about how perfect a day it was.  The weather and the temperature were just right and the sky was just beautiful.  Baskin writes about it in one of my favorite quotes from the book:

In case you are interested, here are a couple more resources that you might find helpful in teaching September 11th to your students.  The first video is called "Boatlift" and is narrated by Tom Hanks.  It tells the story of boat captains in New York Harbor rushing to aid survivors in bringing them to safety.  The second is a reading of the book 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy.  This is the story of a Kenyan tribe across the world in Africa who wishes to bring comfort to the people of America by bestowing upon them their most precious gift.  

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1 comment:

  1. Meaghan..I am so grateful for your careful reading..and understanding of what I was trying to do with my book.. Thank you for this lovely review and this wonderful post. I think so many people could benefit from the work you put into this. I know I can! thank you.