Monday, September 5, 2011

America is Under Attack: A review

Brown, Don. 2011. America is under Attack: September 11, 2001: The day the towers fell. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

It's difficult to believe that the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is almost upon us, and there are now legions of schoolchildren across our country that have no recollection of that day.  With his customary exactitude, employing direct quotes when appropriate, and featuring a bibliography, source notes, and author's notes, Don Brown has made this horrific day in American history accessible to children of elementary school age.

The writing is simple and factual, without embellishment and is accompanied by Brown's pen and watercolor illustrations which are sufficiently vague to mask the absolute horror of the day (faces are often obscured and the terrorists are not depicted), yet with enough detail and gravity to convey the mood of determination despite desperation.

Several stories of individual exploits or heroism are woven into the narrative.  Most striking is the story of survivor Chris Young.  Early in the book, we read that

in the North Tower, another elevator sat stalled and locked closed at the lobby.  It had come to a halt when the plane struck.  Chris Young, its lone occupant, knew nothing of the catastrophe around him.  Firefighters going up couldn't hear his shouts and marched past him, unaware of his predicament.
Near the story's conclusion, the reader is confronted with an eerie, two-page spread in shades of yellowed grays.  A man in a suit is dwarfed by an enormous space littered with debris,

In the North Tower lobby, the doors of a stalled elevator opened. The collapse of the South Tower had cut the power to the elevator's door locks.  From the car emerged Chris Young, the trapped passenger who'd been overlooked by rescue workers.  Earlier he had boarded the elevator from a polished, modern lobby.  Now he shuffled through clouds of dust, over rubble and debris. 


The use of the word "overlooked," is somewhat unfortunate in this case, as it implies negligence, however, the story of Chris Young completely captures the surreal nature of September 11, 2011.

America is Under Attack is Volume Four in the Actual Times series, which feature the events of a particular day and cover art mimicking a newspaper masthead.

Like Brown's earlier book on the Titanic, All Station Distress! or Let it Begin Here!, which retells the start of the American Revolution, Don Brown has once again made history readable and accessible to children in the elementary school grades.

For teen readers seeking information on the September 11, attacks, I highly recommend The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon (Hill and Wang, 2006), with a foreword by 9/11 Commission Chair, Thomas H. Keane.
For young listeners, Carmen Agra Deedy's, 14 Cows for America (Peachtree 2009), is the best book I have seen on the topic.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Playing by the Book. Be sure to stop by.

1 comment:

  1. This is very relevant for me. We are having discussions among teachers about how to approach the 9/11 anniversary in classrooms this week. Brown's book looks like a needed resource. I agree with 14 Cows for young readers and would add The Man Who Walked Between the Towers as well.


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