Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary:  Deja’s home is a single room that she shares with her parents and younger brother and sister in a Brooklyn homeless shelter.  Her father, for reasons that are unclear to Deja, is unable to hold a job; her mother’s salary as a waitress isn’t enough to cover basic living expenses for the family.  With the move to the shelter, Deja has to change schools.  She’s nervous at first, but quickly makes two friends, Ben and Sabeen, and discovers that she likes this school better than any other she’s attended.  There’s a new curriculum for the fifth graders this year, teaching them about 9/11 and their connection to that event.  At first, Deja’s mystified by this, as she’s never heard about the events of 9/11.  Gradually, she comes to understand not only the tragic day itself, but its impact on her friends—Ben, whose father served in the military in Iraq and Sabeen, whose Muslim family has had to deal with prejudice and discrimination—and her own family.  As Deja becomes more insistent, her father gradually tells her about what happened to him on that fateful day, and together, they begin to move toward healing and rebuilding their family.  240 pages; grades 4-6.

Pros:  A powerful story to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  Readers who weren’t alive in 2001 will learn along with Deja the events of that day and how it changed the people of the United States.

Cons:  It was difficult for me to believe that a fifth-grader who had spent all her life in New York City had never heard about the World Trade Center or 9/11.

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