By Lucinda Dyer,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Intense, compelling novel about 9/11 and its aftermath.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Author's Note at the back of the book offers brief informative sections on The World Trade Center, The Attacks, The Terrorists, The War in Afghanistan, and Today (life in Afghanistan, how life in the U.S. has changed since 9/11, and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center).
Shows the power of working together to overcome enormous challenges. On 9/11, people in the World Trade Center found themselves teaming up with and depending upon not just their coworkers, but complete strangers as they tried to make their way out of the Twin Towers.
Positive Role Models
Both Brandon and Reshmina show remarkable courage, putting themselves in danger to help others.
Violence & Scariness
On 9/11, people in the Twin Towers are burned alive, die in falling elevators, jump from high floors, and are killed by the collapse of the buildings. In Afghanistan, characters remember how the Taliban massacred families, burned down schools, sold girls into slavery, and held public executions. An Afghan family has family members killed in attacks by both the Taliban and American forces. A battle between the Taliban and American soldiers is vividly described with soldiers being killed and wounded, a helicopter being shot down, and rocket attacks on soldiers and civilians.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
A few instances of characters using "hell," "crap," and "damn."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Mentions of stores like J. Crew and Hallmark and characters from a Warner Bros. Store (Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck). A boy's determined to buy a pair of Wolverine gloves like the ones in the X-Men movies. A character uses a Nokia phone.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The story mentions that Afghan farmers grow poppies as a raw material for heroin and that for many Afghan parents, heroin is the only medicine they can find to "ease the suffering" of their children. A character smokes a cigarette.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ground Zero, by Alan Gratz (Refugee), is told in alternating chapters by 9-year-old American Brandon Cruz and 11-year-old Reshmina, who lives in rural Afghanistan. Brandon's story begins on the morning of September 11, 2000. He's come to work with his father, who's a kitchen manager on 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Reshmina begins her story on September 11, 2019, as her village becomes a deadly battleground between Taliban and American forces. For both, it's a day filled with violence. Brandon sees people burned alive, die in falling elevators, jump from high floors, and killed by the collapse of the Towers. In Afghanistan, Reshmina vividly describes the firefight between the Taliban and American soldiers and the destruction that comes to her village. But amid all this death and destruction there's also great courage and bravery, as strangers help one another escape the Towers and Reshmina's family risks their lives to give shelter to a wounded American soldier.
Where to Read
Based on 2 parent reviews
Report this review
Two perspectives on 9-11
Report this review
What's the Story?
When 9-year-old Brandon Cruz goes to work with his father the morning of September 11, 2001, he has no idea they'll be at GROUND ZERO for a terrorist attack. Brandon's not in school because he's been suspended for punching a kid who stole a pair of Wolverine gloves from one of his friends. Leaving his father at work on the 107th floor of the North Tower, Brandon heads down to the Tower's underground mall to buy a replacement pair. He's in an elevator when the first plane hits and becomes a hero when he helps save the other passengers. Desperate to find his father, Brandon tries to make his way up back up to the 107th floor. On the way, he finds himself in need of rescue. He's saved by a man named Richard, who becomes his friend and guardian as they try to escape a building collapsing around them. Eighteen years later, 11-year-old Reshmina and her family are dealing with the aftermath of that attack -- constant battles between the Taliban and American soldiers who have been in Afghanistan since December 2001. Her twin brother, Pasoon, is determined to join the Taliban, and Reshmina seems powerless to stop him. After a firefight between the Taliban and American soldiers, Reshima finds the only American survivor, a young soldier named Taz. Risking everything, her family offers him shelter -- a decision they may regret as a fierce battle begins between the Americans and the Taliban.
Is It Any Good?
Author Alan Gratz delivers a haunting and powerful page-turner of a novel, this time focusing on terrorism and the costs of a long-fought war. Readers are certain to be inspired by the courage and determination shown by Brandon and Reshmina in Ground Zero. But that courage often comes amid storylines that include violent deaths that may be disturbing to sensitive readers. The history of America's involvement in Afghanistan is extraordinarily complex, and by viewing the war through Reshmina's eyes, Gratz does an able job of explaining it in a way younger readers will understand.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the events in Ground Zero continue to affect the lives of people in Afghanistan. Do you agree with Reshmina that American soldiers being in Afghanistan has sometimes made things better and sometimes much worse?
What memories of 9/11 do members of your family have? Where were they when the Twin Towers were attacked?
If your brother, sister, or best friend was about to do something that would put them in real danger, what would you do?
- Author: Alan Gratz
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Book Characters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: February 2, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 13
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 2, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Graphic Novels That Teach History
Kids' Books About 9/11
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate