TOWERS FALLING by Jewell Parker Rhodes 

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Deja hates that her family has to live in the homeless shelter.  She hates that her father can’t seem to pull himself together, get out of bed, and get a job.  She is determined not to get too close to people who might make fun of her.  But when she starts at her new school, not only does she immediately meet two kids who seem determined to be her friend, but she also connects with one of their lessons.  Deja has lived in Brooklyn all her life but she has never heard about the towers that fell fifteen years ago.  Now, as she and her classmates gradually uncover the story of the tragedy, Deja learns how the past can have ripple effects in her own life and community.

Intense, but good.  Graphic, but not gratuitous.  Challenging, but important.  Since much of the book takes place in the classroom, parts of it read like a lesson with both characters and readers learning from the same lectures or classmates’ Q&A.  The history is intertwined with both classroom and real life lessons about what it means to be a family, community, and society.  This context adds depth to the discussion of the tragedy, helps illuminate why students should care about history, and steers the book away from the territory of pure horror and violence.  I would recommend this book to middle schoolers, mature younger readers, and adults searching for a way to broach this subject or other challenging similar subjects with children.  

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