Remembering this Day: On the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by a terrorist group known as al Qaeda. The terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and crashed two of them into the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon. Passengers on the fourth plane fought against their captives, but the plane went down with no survivors. Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of these attacks, leaving the United States, and the world, in a state of grief.
We’ve put together a selection of books and resources you can use to reflect on this day and teach students about this important historical event. Find a list of books to share with your students and watch a video with Alyssa Bermudez, creator of Big Apple Diaries!
Find more information to share with students about the 9/11 attacks here and here.
This Very Tree by Sean Rubin
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A deeply moving story about community and resilience, from the point-of-view of the Callery pear tree that survived the attacks on September 11, from Eisner Award-nominated author-illustrator Sean Rubin.
In the 1970s, nestled between the newly completed Twin Towers in New York City, a Callery pear tree was planted. Over the years, the tree provided shade for people looking for a place to rest and a home for birds, along with the first blooms of spring.
On September 11, 2001, everything changed. The tree’s home was destroyed, and it was buried under the rubble. But a month after tragedy struck, a shocking discovery was made at Ground Zero: the tree had survived.
Dubbed the “Survivor Tree,” it was moved to the Bronx to recover. And in the thoughtful care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Callery pear was nursed back to health. Almost a decade later, the Survivor Tree returned home and was planted in the 9/11 Memorial to provide beauty and comfort…and also hope.
This is the story of that tree—and of a nation in recovery. Told from the tree’s perspective, This Very Tree is a touching tribute to first responders, the resilience of America, and the restorative power of community
* “Splendid illustrations . . . A resonant, beautifully rendered testament to life and renewal.” —Kirkus, starred review
* “Rubin’s lively and energetic cartoon art takes the focus quickly from destruction and desolation to growth and renewal . . . A volume that could be part of any unit on 9/11 for children, or a lesson on resilience. ” —Horn Book, starred review
The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas by Kimberly Willis Holt
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Kimberly Willis Holt’s The Ambassador of Nowhere, Texas is a stunning post-9/11 companion to the National Book Award-winner When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.
Decades after the Vietnam War and Toby’s life-changing summer with Zachary Beaver, Toby’s daughter Rylee is at a crossroads—her best friend Twig has started pushing her away just as Joe, a new kid from New York, settles into their small town of Antler. Rylee befriends Joe and learns that Joe’s father was a first responder on 9/11. The two unlikely friends soon embark on a project to find Zachary Beaver and hopefully reconnect him with Rylee’s father almost thirty years later.
This beautiful middle grade novel is a tribute to friendships—old and new—and explores the challenges of rebuilding what may seem lost or destroyed.
“In this companion to the author’s memorable When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, 30 years have passed and it’s 2001. Evocatively written (“stiff as burnt bacon”), this is an altogether absorbing and affecting novel. It’s obvious that Holt loves her fully realized characters and their small-town setting, and readers can’t help but feel the same.” —Booklist, starred review
Big Apple Diaries by Alyssa Bermudez
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In Big Apple Diaries, a heartfelt diary-style graphic memoir by Alyssa Bermudez, a young New Yorker doodles her way through middle school—until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack leaves her wondering if she can ever be a kid again.
It’s the year 2000 in New York City. For 12-year old Alyssa, this means splitting time between her Puerto Rican dad’s apartment in Manhattan and her white mom’s new place in Queens, navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school, and an epic crush on a new classmate. The only way to make sense of it all is to capture the highs and lows in doodles and hilarious comics in a diary.
Then life abruptly changes on September 11, 2001. After the Twin Towers fall and so many lives are lost, worries about gossip and boys feel distant and insignificant. Alyssa must find a new sense of self and purpose amidst all of the chaos, and find the strength to move forward with hope.
“Educators seeking firsthand accounts of 9/11 will want to share this with their students, while middle graders looking for an engrossing graphic novel in the vein of Raina Telgemeier’s or Shannon Hale’s work will be pleased.” —School Library Journal
See below for a video of author Alyssa Bermudez talking about the inspiration behind Big Apple Diaries.