Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story Book Poster Image
Thought-provoking story of four kids affected by 9/11.

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age 18+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Historical information about 9/11 including what happened and how it affected Americans. Information about Muslims, such as why girls wear hijabs, prayers, wudu ritual. Science class about scientific method: proving a hypothesis, left brain vs. right brain, dominant side, handedness.

Positive Messages

Promotes tolerance and diversity. It's not right to persecute people because of their nationality, racial background, or religion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These are good kids, though recognizably human. Naheed is sharp with an annoying classmate, then feels bad and tries to right the wrong. Will apologizes to the girl who's his crush after he disregarded her. Naheed wants to be a doctor like her parents. Despite a disappointing, deadbeat dad and hard-knock life, Sergio wins a math prize. All of them see the wrong in blanket targeting of Muslims.

Violence

Description of planes crashing into Towers. Mention of "people jumping to their deaths." Angry man confronts Naheed's family at 9/11 memorial saying, "We don't want your kind here … Get out and take your A-rab wife and kids with you." Mention of a Middle Eastern restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, targeted by a firebomb, a Sikh wearing a turban shot in New Jersey, and a brick thrown through Naheed's family's window. Will's father died in a highway accident, crushed by a car, which is described briefly.

Sex

Mention of a single middle school kiss between two kids who have long friendship and strong connection: "when he kissed her."

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nora Raleigh Baskin's Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story follows four middle school-age kids in different regions of the United States during the two days leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks and the day itself. The characters are fleshed-out, recognizable American kids, and though none experiences direct loss, all are affected. One character, Naheed, is an Iranian-American Muslim girl from Columbus, Ohio, who wears a head scarf, and that thread in particular brings up issues of religious tolerance and, by extension, immigration and inclusion. Though the publisher's suggested age range is 8 to 11, some 8-year-olds may be too young for, or even confused by, the material. The actual events of the attack are gently handled for the age group, though there's mention of planes crashing and people jumping and quick mention of angry post-9/11 fallout that includes a firebomb, a bigotry-related shooting, and a brick thrown through Naheed's window.

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What's the story?

NINE, TEN: A SEPTEMBER 11 STORY starts out with four middle school kids from different parts of the United States crisscrossing an airport on Sept. 9, 2001, two days before the 9/11 terror attacks. The story takes place during those two days as well as on 9/11, and there's a short section about one year later, showing how their lives are affected. Sergio lives in Brooklyn and befriends a firefighter whose station house is in Lower Manhattan. Naheed is a Muslim who lives in Columbus, Ohio and has to field questions about her head scarf, then fend off hostility directed at her family. Aimee's mom flies to New York for a business meeting scheduled in the World Trade Center. Will lives in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, near the crash site of Flight 93. Though none of the kids loses a loved one, all their lives are changed, and Baskin brings them back together at the end to take an unplanned, united stand for tolerance and human connection.

Is it any good?

Four very real American middle school kids are affected in different ways by 9/11 in this tightly woven, sensitively handled novel that promotes tolerance and diversity while sparking discussion. Baskin serves up characters who are diverse both economically and racially and puts some in harm's way -- a firefighter with a 9/11 shift, a mom with a meeting in the World Trade Center -- and we wonder if they'll be delivered safely. Kids born post-9/11 might need to supplement the history. Baskin mentions the "heroes" on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, but doesn't say what they did or how the plane went down. And there's no mention of the war that resulted. The story is confined to the United States, which makes a cohesive, compelling read, and it makes the case that we're all part of one American family, though some will miss a broader international context, a suggestion that we're also part of a larger human global community.

The true value and strength of this book lies in its ability to get young readers thinking and talking about issues of tolerance. These believable American middle-school kids, at first concerned with everyday family/school/friend issues, all have a thoughtful take on fairness and inclusion, and lead the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about 9/11. What did you already know about the actual events? What did you learn from this book? What are good sources of more information?

  • Naheed wears a head scarf because she's Muslim. Can you think of things that people of religions other than yours wear to practice their religion or show their religious affiliation?

  • What's changed since 9/11? Can you think of things in your community or in your experience that might be different now? Why do you think the author started the story with all four kids in an airport?

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