Towers Falling

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Towers Falling Book Poster Image
Moving, sometimes harrowing story of learning about 9/11.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Facts about the World Trade Center: building it, the attack on it, its collapse, and the memorial on the site. Insight into hardships faced by working-poor families, including homelessness and lack of health care. Turkish food and dining customs, including some vocabulary. Why the 9/11 attacks are called terrorist attacks. Mention of slavery and the relocation and killing of Native Americans. Plot follows school lesson plan for connecting larger historical events to the self, especially through social units such as family, school, city, and country.

Positive Messages

History's not just about facts; it's also about feelings, sometimes sad ones. History doesn't mean anything unless you know the whole story. The terrorists hate us because we believe in freedom for everyone. Freedom is why people immigrate to the United States and what makes us American. Learning about history helps you understand yourself, your family, and your community better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Deja is angry and resentful because of her circumstances. She mentions a few times that she wants to punch something, and once or twice she lashes out to hurt another with words. But she's a responsible older sister, taking good care of her little brother and baby sister. She wants to do well in school and enjoys it. She goes from thinking that here and now is the only thing that matters to appreciating the benefits of deeper understanding, especially of history. Her friendship trio is diverse. Her parents are in financial distress but keep a tight-knit family and are loving and involved in Deja's life. Teachers model patience and understanding and encourage critical thinking.


Watching videos of the planes crashing into the twin towers, people jumping from them, and their eventual collapse are described with some details such as couple holding hands as they jumped and fell and imagined sounds of screaming, crunching, exploding, and so on. A first-person narration of being in the north tower during the crash, climbing the stairwell to help rescue people, and running back down as the tower began to collapse has some harrowing details but no violence or gore. Mention of getting jumped, stealing, and gangs. Dad's anger scares the children; he never harms them. Past drive-by mentioned. Deja feels she wants to punch something a few times. Bullies insult and swing a preschooler by the arm around in circles; Deja punches one in the arm. Brief mention of slavery and killing Native Americans.


A couple of mentions of liking and "like liking." Boys trying to look in the women's bathroom mentioned. A couple of mentions of the naked cowboy tourist attraction in Times Square.


No profanity. Deja lashes out verbally a few times. Mention that bullies call someone "Shrimp."


A few cartoon characters for scene setting and character development. Toddler sister uses Pull-Ups.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention that shelter residents drink beer in paper bags even though it's not allowed. Father's need for medication mentioned. Sherlock Holmes smoking pipes mentioned.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydana d. December 6, 2016

The towers that fell affected you and your community

“Jewell Parker-Rhodes sincerely knows how to make the reader dive in and become a part of a story she tells. I found myself rushing home to finish the next chap... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymsomers225 May 14, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byLaurenPerson July 29, 2018

amazing book! :) i

I would recommend this book for 7 and up because it might be a little violent for younger kids, but its a wonderful book with an amazing message. if you are the... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and 9/11 stories

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