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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Towers Falling, by Jewel Parker Rhodes (Ninth Ward), is a novel about how 10-year-old fifth-grader Deja Barnes learns about the attack on the World Trade Center and how understanding history helps us understand ourselves and our communities. The publisher rates it as appropriate for kids 8-12, but vivid and harrowing (although not gory) descriptions of videos of the event, and a first-person account of being in one of the towers, may cause lingering distress for kids under 10. And kids of any age may need reassurances that they're safe. The focus is on the events of the day itself and making a personal connection to history, although issues such as immigration and a free, tolerant society are briefly touched on. Attitudes toward Muslims are explored through Deja's friendship with Sabeen, which allows Deja to get to know a family from Turkey. Insights into homelessness, especially for the working poor, will inspire empathy. Whether or not fifth-graders are too young to learn about 9/11 is questioned.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Fifth-grader Deja Barnes is starting out at a new school, where all she wants to do is keep a low profile. She lives in a one-room shelter for homeless people with her mom, dad, and two younger siblings, and she's afraid people won't like her if they find out. She somehow makes friends with Ben and Sabeen, and the three work together on projects as the class starts learning about the TOWERS FALLING on Sept. 11, 2001. But why should Deja learn about something that happened 15 years ago, when it won't help put food on the table tonight? As the class learns about what happened, they also learn about their places in their communities and about what unites people. She also learns a secret about her father's past that brings history to life right in her own family.
Is it any good?
The events of 9/11 are skillfully woven into a compelling and intriguing story of a girl whose world just got a lot bigger -- and who is the better for it. Jewell Parker Rhodes introduces young readers to a tragic event with grace and tact, blending issues of history, community, hurting, healing, and more. The Coretta Scott King honoree carefully but without flinching provides a way for tweens and middle graders to learn about the tragedy and examine the ideas and feelings that knowing about horrific events can bring up.
Deja Barnes becomes a relatable and admirable character as we get to know her family and her circumstances and as we watch her friendship with Ben and Sabeen blossom. There's a lot to take in and a lot to think about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about scary events in the news today and in the past, such as 9/11. Who and what helps you feel safer when you feel scared? How can you help others who might be scared, too?
At first Deja thinks that learning about the past is a waste of time, because it can't help her get something to eat today. What does she think in the end? What changes her mind about it?
What "social units" do you belong to? What connects you to other people in your family, school, town, and country?
- Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: July 12, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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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.