In less than a week, we will acknowledge the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Aside from reading one of the books I’m recommending below, we have not intentionally talked with our daughters about the events of 9/11. But, now that they’re getting older and may be talking about that historic and tragic day at school, I wanted to search for some books that we could read with them to help them understand, in an age-appropriate way, what happened to our country that day. Below, I’ve got three titles I feel are excellent books about 9/11 to read with preschoolers and early elementary students. I’ve also got a few titles that I couldn’t easily get my hands on, so please check those out too, and comment below if you’ve read them and would recommend them (or not!).
Age-Appropriate Picture Books about 9/11
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein — I bought this book during one of my very first Mock Caldecott units more than 10 years ago, because it’s an excellent example of perspective in illustration. I kept it because my students, and now my children, love the story. It’s much more about a tightroper who actually tight-roped between the towers of the World Trade Center than it is about 9/11, but Gerstein does include a short tribute to the Towers that no longer exist in our world, except in our memories. This tribute has opened doors for our older daughter to ask questions about the Towers and why they’re no longer there. Though we read this year-round with our children, not just to start dialogue about 9/11, I love this as a conversation-starter this time of year. Recommended for ages 5-8, but can definitely be used younger and older.
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman — Fireboat is another example of a book that addresses 9/11, but the bulk of the story covers other concepts… specifically, fire-fighting and the history of using boats to fight fires. Fireboat opens in 1931 when the John J. Harvey Fireboat was launched in New York City. Readers learn how in 1995, the city decided it didn’t need so many fireboats any more and retired the Harvey, but citizens decided it needed to be saved. And readers read about how on the morning of September 11, 2001, two airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers, sending them falling to the ground. The John J. Harvey Fireboat was called into action, initially to transport people, but then answered a much more urgent call to help. Though Kalman does indeed show the airplanes hitting the Towers, the Towers falling, chaos and fire ensuing, the message and information is very age-appropriate and focused on the heroism of the John J. Harvey Fireboat and the people who helped. Recommended for ages 4-8.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez — Wow, this story is oh so powerful. Once again, it’s a story less about the events of 9/11, and more about the hearts of people aching to help. Based on the true story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah (be sure to read his note at the back of the book… But beware, it may bring you to tears!), 14 Cows for America helps young readers understand how the events of 9/11 touched lives around the world, as well as how people around the world, even those who had little to give, sacrificed to help our country heal. The story will touch your heart, and the beautiful illustrations will make you want to slow down and absorb the information and emotion. This is a book to get your hands on and spend time with! Recommended for ages 6-10.
Other picture books about 9/11 I hope to check out:
- The Survivor Tree: Inspired by a True Story by Cheryl Somers Aubin
- September Roses by Jeanette Winter
- The Little Chapel That Stood by A. B. Curtis
Have you read any of these books? Do you have picture books you’ve loved to encourage dialogue about the events of September 11, 2001?