America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell Book Poster Image
Frank picture book account of 9/11 balances fact, feeling.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The destruction of the World Trade Center towers and the crashes into the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania are reported in a chronological narrative that is both sensitive and informative. It touches on the political intent of Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, but focuses primarily on what happened and how people helped one another deal with the disaster as it unfolded.

Positive Messages

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were shocking and horrific. But in the face of that tragedy, ordinary people did heroic things, strangers helped other strangers, and, though life went on for most of us, it had been changed forever.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The stories of real people weave together to show how, in the face of the 9/11 tragedy, people of all sorts, from fire chiefs to window washers to ordinary office workers, pulled together to help one another cope with a world exploding and collapsing around them. Without being overly sentimental, the author uses real quotes and examples to paint realistic characters who show selfless concern for others.


This is definitely a violent story, from the first fiery plane crash to the final sandwiching collapse of the 110-floor towers. The illustrations convey the fear and horror of the day's events, but none of the violence is gory or gratuitous. Nor is it inflated to scare or overwhelm the reader.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fourth volume in the Actual Time series by Don Brown is a very straightforward, journalistic account of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Quotes from real people as well as their stories provide the human element, and graphic, though not gory, watercolor illustrations show the destruction of the plane crashes as well as the emotions of the people involved. Though it is written as a picture book, and suggested for ages 6 to 10, it is more appropriate for those 9 and over. Parents of any age reader definitely should be prepared to discuss the events and emotions with their children.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJIDDINS October 28, 2015

A great visual walk through a terrible day in the recent American past!

I have many students that are into comics and graphic novels, so this book is an absolutely great introduction to a day which they all should know about, but we... Continue reading
Adult Written bysurvivor18 September 16, 2011


i think its a great book
Kid, 11 years old November 21, 2011

*Sniffs and Cries* God bless the people who died On that day.

I've read this book before. It's pretty good. It's Violent because 3,000 people died. Talks about September 11 2001, The Day The World Trade Cent... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old September 11, 2011

A kid-friendly telling of 9/11

America Is Under Attack is a kid-friendly telling of 9/11. It explains what happened on that day and informs readers of the tragedy, while focusing on the hero... Continue reading

What's the story?

America is Under Attack is the fourth volume of Don Brown's history series for kids called Actual Times, all of which cover significant days in American history. All are written as journalistic accounts, with stories and quotes from real people. And all are illustrated with his wonderfully understated but expressive watercolors that underscore the emotional aspect of the stories. This volume presents a chronological narrative of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, beginning with first plane crashing into the north tower at 8:46 a.m. and ending with its pancaking collapse less than two hours later. Facts are interwoven with stories and quotes from Fire Chief Joseph Pfiefer, Police Captain Anthony Whitaker, Frank De Martini, the building's construction manager, as well as other workers. Watercolor illustrations show explosions, destruction, and most of all, the facial expressions of the people amid the chaos. Brief mention is made of Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, the terrorists, the crashes into the Pentagon and in the field in Pennsylvania. Also, the last few pages and an Author's Note recount the numbers of people lost and the amount of wreckage left behind. A bibliography is included for further reading.

Is it any good?

This is an excellent book that finds the perfect balance between fact and feeling in describing the horrific event of 9/11. Readers who lived through that time, as well as those who were not born yet, will find value in this account, due to the straightforward presentation of facts and the masterful use of watercolor illustrations to amplify the narrative. The title, designed like a newspaper headline (the Actual Times), sets a journalistic tone, and the story that follows rings true.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Besides talking about the events and emotions of the 9/11 events, families can talk about the fact that this book is written as a journalistic account, with real people and actual quotes. Even the cover looks like the front page of a newspaper. How is this different from historical fiction? Which do you prefer? What makes one better than the other? 

  • This book looks like a picture book but is not written for the usual picture book crowd. What do you think the illustrations add that otherwise would not have been part of the story. Can you think of other books with this format?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories about 9/11 and history

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