I was 20 years old on September 11th, 2001, and like many people, I remember exactly where I was when it happened, and exactly when I heard about it from the person sitting next to me in my music theory class.
It was my generation’s Kennedy assassination.
It still feels a bit weird to me that my kids now learn about the September 11th attacks in school. Those memories are so clear in my mind; it’s hard to believe it happened almost 20 years ago.
Since the attacks, many books have been written on them as well. Some are non-fiction accounts of the events and their heroes; others are powerful fiction stories that communicate the emotions felt on that painful day.
This list includes what I consider to be the best children’s books about September 11th, 2001. They’re a mix of fiction and nonfiction, with titles ranging from pictures books to YA novels.
These books will help your children learn more about this unforgettable day in history, and I think adults will be as moved as kids by the middle grade and YA novels featured.
18 Children’s Books About September 11th
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
The John J. Harvey served New York City as a fireboat until it was retired in 1995. When disaster strikes the city in September of 2001, the John J. Harvey finds new life, doing its part to battle the fires in New York City after the terror attacks.
I recommend this lovely picture book for readers ages 5 and up.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
The news of the September 11th attacks shocked and horrified the world, including a community of Massai people in Kenya. The community decides to give a gift to the American people, and the gesture is a beautiful picture of generosity and the human connection between people everywhere.
This picture book is perfect for kids ages 5 and up.
The Little Chapel That Stood by A. B. Curtis
Less than 100 yards from the Twin Towers was St. Paul’s Chapel. On September 11th, 2001, the church became a headquarters for first responders working to save the people inside the buildings. Fire fighters hung their shoes on the fence as they quickly pulled on boots and gear. Many of those shoes were never reclaimed.
This sad but powerful story is excellent for sharing with kids ages 6 and up.
This picture book is my favorite straight-forward, historical account of the events of September 11th, 2001. It’s beautifully illustrated, and chronologically tells the events of the day in a way that is free of bias and not too scary for younger readers.
I recommend this book for children ages 6 and up.
Early and Middle Grade Chapter Books
I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshis
Lucas is devastated when his parents tell him he can’t play football anymore due to a head injury. He skips school and heads to the city to talk to Uncle Benny, his father’s best friend and Lucas’s closest confidant.
However, when Lucas arrives in Manhattan, he is not prepared for what he sees. As the devastation unfolds, will Lucas’s beloved family members make it home safe?
My boys love this series, and this particular book was a favorite. I recommend it for kids ages 8 and up.
What Were the Twin Towers? by Jim O’Connor
This interesting non-fiction book from the Who Was? series focuses on the history of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, from their completion in 1973 to the fateful day they were destroyed in 2001. Like all of the books in this series, there are lots of pictures and sidebars that make this a great choice for reluctant readers.
I recommend this chapter book for kids ages 7 and up.
Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin
This story focuses on several different kids across the country, each facing their own challenges in the days before 9/11. After the attacks, their paths cross in amazing ways as they deal with being Muslim in post-9/11 America, losing loved ones, adjusting to new places, and reconciling old hurts.
This beautiful, diverse novel is great for kids ages 8 and up.
Towers Falling by Jewel Parker Rhodes
Dèja is a fifth-grader living in New York City, and her class is beginning to learn about the Twin Towers, which were once visible from her classroom window. As Dèja begins to dive deep into what the attack has meant to her city and her country, she finds even more questions…like, why doesn’t her father want her to talk about 9/11 at all?
I recommend this novel for readers ages 8 and up.
Eleven by Tom Rogers
Alex Douglas is turning 11 on September 11, 2001. He rescues a stray dog on his birthday, and names him Radar. The day takes a turn as Alex grapples with bullies, family, and fear of the unknown.
This wonderful book artfully weaves several storylines together, and my oldest son read and loved it when he was in the fifth grade. I recommend it for kids ages 10 and up, but I think adults will love it as well.
Throwback by Peter Lerangis
Corey has an amazing imagination. He also has an amazing super power. Corey can travel to any time in history, just by touching a metal artifact from that time period.
When Corey learns he can actually alter the events of the past, he sets out to save his grandmother from dying in the 9/11 attacks. Along the way he learns much about the history of New York City, and how changing the past can have lasting consequences.
I recommend this book for children ages 8 and up.
Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Jake Green is shocked and heartbroken at the news of the 9/11 terror attacks. His community is even more affected when they realize one of the hijackers lived in their town.
Things get even more personal for Jake when his best friend Sam gets beat up simply for being Muslim. Normally, Jake would stick up for his friend without question, but when Sam’s father is detained, suddenly everyone is suspicious. Jake is torn between the friend he knows and loves, and the opinions of his own family and others in his town.
I recommend sharing this book with kids ages 8 and up.
A Long Way From Home by Alice Walsh
Rabia and her family have left violence in Afghanistan for safety in Pakistan. From Pakistan, her family is chosen for a program that will help relocate them in the United States. Rabia’s family boards their flight for America on September 11, 2001.
Rabia’s plane is rerouted to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. The people of Gander welcome the stranded passengers with love and kindness, and Rabia is able to connect with Colin, a boy who was initially suspicious of Rabia and her family.
This lovely book is perfect for sharing with children ages 9 and up.
Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Ema’s father is Japanese and her mother is American, which means she quite often feels caught between two worlds. As Ema and her mother await the birth of her new sibling, Ema looks forward to having another person in the family who is both Japanese and American.
But everything changes on September 11, 2001. As Ema and her mother watch the Twin Towers fall, her mother grieves for her home country. Pregnancy complications and her grandfather’s sudden illness make Ema even more sad and anxious. In this difficult time, an unexpected bond with her strict grandmother helps Ema understand more about her family and her Japanese heritage.
I recommend this powerful novel for kids ages 10 and up.
Young Adult Books
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Kyle is looking out the window of his Brooklyn classroom when he sees the first tower fall. As he rushes home across the Brooklyn Bridge, he encounters a girl about his age who is covered in ash. She can’t remember anything about herself, and Kyle decides to bring her home and try to help her.
This lovely story of friendship is perfect for kids ages 12 and up.
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
This book follows the stories of Jasper, a college sophomore, and Claire and Peter, high school juniors, on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Jasper is trying to process what has happened while taking his parents’ panicked phone calls from Korea. Peter and Claire are trying to navigate family and school in the wake of this life-changing attack.
The three young people meet, and as each affects the other, they learn important lessons about love and loss. How can they move forward after this life-changing event?
I recommend this book for kids ages 13 and up.
All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
This book weaves together two powerful stories. One is the present day story of a girl named Jesse who lost her brother in the 9/11 attacks. The other is the story of a girl named Alia who went to see her father at his Manhattan office on September 11, 2001.
These two girls’ stories intertwine in an amazing way, and Jesse is able to learn more about the brother she lost. I recommend sharing this book with kids ages 13 and up.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
I could not put down this compelling story about love and family. In the Dominican Republic, Camino is waiting for her father’s plane to land, so he can spend the summer with her. In New York, Yahaira has just learned her father died in the plane crash.
The death of their beloved father leads these two sisters to find out more about his life, and the secrets he kept. Eventually, their quest leads them to each other, for the very first time.
I recommend this book for readers ages 14 and up.
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