91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Booktalk: Commemorating 9/11
By Judy Freeman

This month marks the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks. An eclectic assortment of books celebrates the strength of Americans in the past year. Click here for more books about America the Beautiful

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey
by Maira Kalman Putnam, 2002; 48 pages; $16.99 (K–2).
The John J. Harvey, a New York City firefighting boat, first sailed in 1937, and for more than 50 years its sailors fought fires along the city's many piers. Retired in 1995, a group of friends who knew its legend bought and restored the Harvey. On September 11 the boat went back into active duty when its new owners rushed to the scene of the attacks, where they courageously and tirelessly assisted firefighters for four days and nights. In this fantastically illustrated story based on real events, ordinary people on an extraordinary boat spring into action to help their beleaguered city.
ACTIVITY: Ask your students to recall large or small acts of kindness, compassion, and selflessness that they have performed or witnessed in their lifetimes. How have these deeds affected or changed them?

New York's Bravest
By Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Knopf, 2002; 32 pages; $15.95 (PreK–6). New York City's mythical 19th-century firefighter, Mose, stood eight feet tall and could swim the Hudson River in just two strokes. "When others ran away from danger, Mose ran toward it" — at least, that is, until he disappeared one night after saving a hotel full of guests from a terrible fire. "He must've swam to Jersey," concluded his buddies, though the rumors had him mining gold in California, or working for President Lincoln in Washington. The story of this tall-tale hero for the 9/11 age is illustrated with beautiful paintings that bring old New York to life.
ACTIVITY: Invite students to compare and contrast how modern-day firefighters battle a house fire by reading Firefighters A to Z, by Chris L. Demarest (McElderry, 2000), a rhyming picture book written and illustrated by a volunteer fireman.

It's Still a Dog's New York
By Susan L. Roth. National Geographic, 2002; 32 pages; $12 (PreK–4).
In this companion to It's a Dog's New York (National Geographic, 2001), canines Pepper and Rover discuss their sadness and anger over the attacks, as well as their favorite things about living in the exciting city of New York (visiting the Empire State Building, ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, and roaring with the lions outside of the New York Public Library). Photographs illustrate the dogs' preferred locales, while their banter reminds students that it's okay to be sad, confused, and strong, all at the same time. "We'll never forget...but we HAVE to go on," says the very astute Rover.
ACTIVITY: Have your students work in pairs to decide what the dogs might want to see if they came to visit your area. What would they talk about while sightseeing? Ask students to write their dog dialogue in play format. Invite them to perform their work in character for the class.

There's a Big, Beautiful World Out There!
By Nancy Carlson. Viking, 2002; 32 pages; $15.99 (PreK–3).
"There's a lot to be scared of, that's for sure!" begins a colorfully illustrated picture book that encourages us to confront and overcome our fears. Mean-looking dogs, thunderstorms, and scary stories in the news send a brown-haired girl with braids deep under her covers — until she considers all the good things she'll miss if she hides from the world. Though the author notes that the book was written on September 12, 2001, the rest of the text makes no mention of its inspiration.
ACTIVITY: Ask your listeners to discuss, write, and illustrate their fears. What have they been afraid of and how have they dealt with it? What advice can they give to others who share their fears? What do they love about this big, beautiful world? Invite them to draw a picture illustrating their most favorite things about the world.

A Nation Challenged: A Visual History of 9/11 and Its Aftermath
By The New York Times staff. Young Readers' Edition, Scholastic, 2002; 96 pages; $18.95 (Gr. 4–8).
Taken from The New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of 9/11 and its aftermath, these huge color photographs document the fall of the Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon, the Pennsylvania plane crash, and the country's response. Color maps and diagrams, photo captions, insightful quotes from Times articles, a detailed glossary, and a list of Web sites with related children's materials come together to round out a somber but historically important book.
ACTIVITY: Younger students can discuss the thoughts and feelings the book provokes in them, while older students can also critique the book. What are its strengths and weaknesses? What issues should a newspaper consider when covering such disturbing and world-altering events?

Understanding September 11th: Answering Questions About the Attacks on America
By Mitch Frank. Viking, 2002; 136 pages; $16.99 (Gr. 6–12).
In this balanced and factual overview, Time magazine reporter Frank answers basic questions about 9/11: What happened? What is terrorism? What is Islam? Why did terrorists target the United States? Why did we retaliate against Afghanistan? This clear and descriptive narrative (accompanied by black-and-white photos and a glossary) is rendered, Frank explains, because "by understanding how this happened, we can...work to ensure history does not repeat itself."
ACTIVITY: To gain even better perspective and discover more viewpoints, photocopy and hand out relevant passages of other books that cover and explain the events of 9/11, including Andrew Santella's September 11, 2001 (Children's Press, 2002; Grades 4–6), and Jill C. Wheeler's September 11, 2001: The Day That Changed America (Abdo, 2002; Grades 4–8).

This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort
Edited by Georgia Heard. Candlewick, 2002; 48 pages; $16.99 (Gr. 1–6).
New York poetry anthologist Georgia Heard has pulled together a fine collection of 18 "poems of comfort" from a diverse range of poets that includes Eloise Greenfield, Gwendolyn Brooks, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. Eighteen talented children's book artists contribute accompanying illustrations in this lovely collaboration.
ACTIVITY: Poetry, when read aloud, has a wonderful ability to make people feel better. After sharing these poems with your children, let them loose in the 800s section of your school's library, in groups of two to four, to select another "healing" poem that they can read aloud to the rest of the class.

911: The Book of Help
Edited by Michael Cart. Cricket, 2002; 192 pages; $17.95 (hardcover), $9.95 (paperback) (Gr. 7–Adult).
Twenty-seven well-known children's and young-adult authors contributed stories, poems, and personal essays to this fine collection, intended to help readers reflect on the tragedy. David Paterson describes volunteering at Ground Zero in the days after the attack, Avi tells of shooting a bird with his Red Raider air rifle when he was 12, and Suzanne Fisher Staples writes a moving short story of an American Muslim woman teaching Afghan refugee children in Pakistan.
ACTIVITY: Share your favorite selections with your students. Invite them to reflect upon their memories of 9/11, and ask them to write about how the day affected their lives.

The Hero's Trail: A Guide for a Heroic Life
By T. A. Barron. Philomel, 2002; 131 pages; $14.99 (Gr. 4–8).
With profiles of people such as desegregationist Ruby Bridges, scientist Stephen Hawking, and baseball legend Lou Gehrig, children's book author Barron has compiled a series of inspirational true tales about five types of heroic people: the hero on the spot, the survivor hero, the hero within, the hero to others, and the hero for all time.

A hero, he writes, is "someone who, faced with a tough challenge, reaches down inside and finds the courage, strength, and wisdom to triumph." Comparing life to a remarkable hike, the author guides readers down an exhilarating trail, introducing them to memorable people who have exhibited the extraordinary traits of authentic heroes.
ACTIVITY: What does it take to be a hero? Working as a group, make a list of heroic character traits. Then ask each student to write an essay describing a person they admire, from a family member to a friend to someone they've only read about.

JUDY FREEMAN, children's literature consultant and workshop presenter (www.JudyReadsBooks.com), is the author of More Books Kids Will Sit Still For (Bowker/Greenwood, 1995: 800–225–5800; http://www.lu.com); and Hi Ho Librario: Songs, Chants, and Stories to Keep Kids Humming, a book and tape cassette package for teachers and librarians (Rock Hill Press, 1997: 888-ROCKHILL; http://www.rockhillpress.com).