MG – In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks

Brown, Don. In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks. Etch / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. 2021. 978-0-358-22357-3. 121 p. $21.99. Grades 6-9.

Don Brown excels at creating graphic nonfiction that introduces pivotal events in U.S. history to young readers. His previous titles explore the 1918 flu pandemic, the Dust Bowl, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Now, with the twenty-year mark approaching, In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers captures the tragedy, heroism, and aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Panels depicting the day of the attacks feature chalky, muted tones that represent the ash covering “Ground Zero” and the smoky hallways of the Pentagon. Bright orange flames also appear throughout. Expository text accompanies the artwork, along with first-person speech bubbles from eyewitnesses, first responders, George W. Bush, soldiers, and survivors. As the subtitle suggests, the author’s timeline incorporates the months and years after 9/11, including the grim victim recovery efforts, the massive clean-up, and the invasion of Afghanistan. Highly controversial topics, such as “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists, are also briefly mentioned.

THOUGHTS: Don Brown’s books leave readers wanting to know more, which is a good thing; they are introductory overviews of events that will hopefully lead young readers to further, more comprehensive sources.

973 American History          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Graphic Nonfiction

Don Brown has done a fine job of bringing to light current events and injustices through his graphic expository non-fiction works (Hurricane Katrina, Syrian refugee crisis). In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers is no exception. With his characteristic realistic monochromatic drawing style, he sketches out the horror of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, for a generation who have not lived through it. The action at the start relies heavily on what took place, rather than the cause. Brown takes the readers through the first strikes, the search and rescue and recovery efforts, and the United States government’s retaliation for the attacks. When possible, he names significant people to the event, like the film-maker Jules Naudet, who just happened to be creating a documentary on firefighters that fateful day. The author relates the courage and anxiety of the first responders, the survival and deaths of the victims, and the anguish of their families. He mentions the attacks on the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but goes into more detail for his title theme. In brief, easily understandable prose, Brown describes President Bush’s and the American government’s decision to retaliate against al-Qaeda, the agency they believe to be responsible for the attacks. Throughout, the author remains objective and factual, whether reporting on the inhumane torture of the government’s main suspect in an effort to find Osama bin Laden or in the inconclusive report of “weapons of mass destruction.” The book includes the rebuilding of Ground Zero and the year anniversary memorial. In an afterword, Brown records information about America’s embroilment in a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the capture of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and lists of statistics on those involved in the tragedy at the World Trade Center. This carefully researched, concise report on 9/11 and its aftermath would be an apt companion to Alan Gratz’s Ground Zero, a fictionalized account of the attack on the Twin Towers. Though it tells of a horrific event in American history, it also shows the resilience, hope, and kindness of humanity.

THOUGHTS:  Brown’s even-handed approach to the 9/11 tragedy and his insertion of human connections (like the names of the police officers buried and the photo of a missing victim) make this book both factual and poignant. Even younger readers can grasp what happened in this graphic text, and older readers can use the extensive source notes to nudge them to find out more.

Graphic Nonfiction          Bernadette Cooke, SD Philadelphia

MS/YA NF – Sachiko; Courageous Women; Dinosaurs

sachiko

Stelson, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. New York: Carolrhoda Books, 2016. 978-146788-9035. $19.99. 144pp. Gr. 5-8.
Sachiko Yasui holds memories of her close, loving family.  She also holds memories of a desperate war that turned horrific.  She lived with her family: mother, father, older brothers Aki and Ichiro, younger sister Misa, and youngest (doted upon) brother Toshi.  The war had taken its toll on Japan and food for everyone was scarce.  Urging her children to not waste a bit of food or drink, her mother would say, “Every sip is precious.”  When Sachiko’s father was drafted into the Japanese army, the family chose to return with him to Nagasaki.  It was a fateful decision, for soon thereafter the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima then Nagasaki.  Sachiko survived to watch her siblings die, each in a different manner, each due to the effects of the bomb.  She endured thyroid cancer treatments and fought back for her physical ability to speak, learning that “every word is precious.”  This is her story, told in affecting detail, of the bombing and the aftermath.  Despite the horror, this story is un-put-downable and ultimately overflowing with a message of peace and understanding.  Over a lifetime of questioning and forming her own perspective on the bombings (informed by the teachings of Gandhi, Helen Keller and Martin Luther King, Jr), Sachiko finally has spoken to many about these events, always urging an end to hatred and war.  “Every word is precious.” Well-documented and complete with end notes, glossary, and an author’s note.  THOUGHTS: This is a book to promote peace.  It would pair well with John Hersey’s Hiroshima.
940.54 World War II      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

sciencecomics

Reed, MK. Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. New York: First Second, 2016. 978-1-62672-144-9. $19.99. Gr 6-12.

Science Comics second graphic novel is an excellent addition to the colorful, descriptive Coral Reefs comic published earlier this year. This volume explores the complex history of dinosaurs in beautiful color illustrations and an easy to read narrative that will appeal most to middle grade readers. The story begins with the history of paleontology, dating back to the discovery of many dinosaur bones during the Industrial Revolution. The scientific rivalries are dramatic enough to keep readers entertained, while the emergence of natural sciences as a discipline will ruminate with those studying the field. Readers will find various bits of trivia spread throughout the book, such as: how dinosaurs are named, where fossils are found, and much more. THOUGHTS: Use this graphic novel and the rest of the Science Comic series to add a fun addition to your nonfiction section; students will enjoy the opportunity to read a comic about science!

567.9; Dinosaurs      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

We have an 8th grade science class come in the library weekly for a sustained silent science reading block, so I have made it my mission to update our science nonfiction and add titles that middle schoolers want to read. I normally book talk a few titles at the beginning of this block, and I always make sure to highlight a variety of books that will appeal to different readers. We had a few nonfiction graphic novels that always seemed to get scooped up quickly, so I am excited that there will be more titles in the Science Comics series. We plan to add them all to our collection as they are published, and I imagine they will continue to circulate while we partner with the 8th grade science class in the future.

 

courageouswomen

Cordell, M.R. Courageous Women of the Civil War. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2016. 978-1-61373-200-7. $19.99. 230p. Gr. 7-12.

The often overlooked contributions that women made to the Civil War effort are the focus of this engaging title. Cordell profiles 16 Union and Confederate women who defied the expectations of the times and left their homes to become actively involved in the war. Some picked up arms, disguised themselves as men and joined up as soldiers. Other women served as spies, as nurses or as vivandieres (women attached to military units as sutlers and canteen bearers). The text is enhanced by sidebars that explain various aspects of the war. Also of note are the numerous historical photos, including photos showing many of the female soldiers in their male soldier disguises. THOUGHTS: This engaging title will appeal to all students, not just Civil War aficionados. The women profile led fascinating and action-packed lives and readers will find themselves drawn into their stories. The role of women in the war is not always discussed in history texts; this book helps to fill this void. Recommended for purchase in secondary schools.

973.7; Civil War       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS