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.
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A few instances of characters using "hell," "crap," and "damn."
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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.
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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.
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.
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.