A tender exploration of the aftermath of 9/11 as one girl begins to understand her father’s connection to the events.
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, 2016. 240 pages.
Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 8-10
Recommended For: Middle grades, ages 8-12
Deja and her family are living in one room at the Avalon shelter when she starts a new school for fifth grade. A new school equals new friends and teachers as well as new classes. It also includes a new understanding of her father, a man who is sick, can’t seem to hold down a job, and is clearly hiding something. Sabeen (a cheerful Muslim girl) and Ben (a quirky white boy) quickly befriend Deja (African American), and together the three begin learning about 9/11 with the rest of their class and school. Along with the usual ups and downs of 5th grade, Deja juggles embarrassment at her current living situation, embarrassment over her ignorance of major events everyone else knows about, and embarrassment over her father’s condition.
It turns out that Deja’s father survived 9/11–that’s what he’s been hiding; it left its mark on his psyche as well as his lungs. As Deja and her classmates learn more about that terrible day, she also begins to understand more about her father. He, too, begins the healing process. This is a good choice for kids who want to learn more about 9/11, and it’s also a good novel to use when discussing homelessness and PTSD. A nice complement to Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story, which tells the 9/11 events in present tense, Towers Falling examines the effects a life-changing event has on individuals and their families in the years following. While there is no ultimate hope presented, the novel ends on a hopeful note as Deja and her father grow closer together.
Cautions: Violence (there are references to scenes from 9/11 such as people falling out of buildings)
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Worldview Rating: 4
Artistic Rating: 4