At 8:46 this morning our school and, I imagine, many others paused to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Several children were in my library checking out books when the announcement came over the sound system: This morning we remember the attack on our country which began at this time twelve years ago. We remember the many people who died in the attack and the many firefighters and policemen who gave their lives to help others that day. We will now have a moment of silence to remember those brave Americans and thank those who continue to work hard to keep us safe today.
We all paused, but only I could actually remember what it was like on that earthshaking day. Our middle schoolers were either not born or were just babes that horrible and beautiful September day when our view of the world changed. As the students left to go to their first period classes, I hunted up the few books in our library which attempt to explain the attack and put them on display on my desk.
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon is The 9/11 Commission Report in graphic novel form. The Commission's 2004 report was a best seller but hard for many people to understand, so two years later Jacobson, a comic book editor, and Colon, a comic book artist, collaborated on recreating the Report in graphic novel format. In an interview with NPR, Jacobson emphasized the faithful capturing of the Commission Report's words in the graphic novel:
"This is not a comic book. It's a graphic presentation, using many, many devices, to tell what exactly has been said [in the report] and only that. '
Although it is aimed towards high schools students and above, my middle school students respond well to this format, and it was quickly taken from my desk for checkout today.
In Understanding September 11th: Answering Questions About the Attack on America, Mitch Frank, a Time Magazine reporter, uses a question and answer format to present the September 11th events and the political background leading up to the attacks. This format works for my students because they can read and absorb the amount of information they can handle and then put the book down and pick it up again later. It's also well-illustrated with images chosen for the sensitivities of this age group. One student today browsed through several pages looking just at the images, talking to me about what he was seeing in them.
Don Brown's book America Is Under Attack is geared towards younger children of elementary school age. He uses a storybook style and soft watercolor illustrations to lay out the events of attack, emphasizing the heroic efforts made to save lives that day.
School Library Journal recommends this book for grades 2-4 and I haven't bought it since I suspect my students would take one look at the simple text and put it down. Too bad, because I think the illustrations are perfect for middle schoolers. The softness of the watercolors make the harsh realities they depict a bit easier to handle for those old enough to know the whole horrible truth of what happened but still too young to handle the stark, unforgettable media images we older folk saw on TV and in the news magazines twelve years ago.