Recommended for: Upper Elementary & Middle Grade Readers
Thank you, Netgalley, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, and Jewel Parker-Rhodes for selecting me to review a digital ARC of this book.
Set 15 years after the terrorist attack on September 11, fifth grader, Deja, begins a new school year in a new school. Not just any school but a school in Brooklyn that once had a view of the World Trade Center from its classroom windows. Deja is not happy about starting a new school, so she is prepping herself to not fit in and doesn't want any new friends.
Deja is also struggling with life at home, more specifically, not at home, in a shelter. Her family has fallen on hard times and is now living in a shelter. Her father is depressed, angry, and appears to be constantly plagued with pain, although we are unsure if it is truly mental or physical. Her mother has to spend her time caring for her Deja's father and trying to get work, leaving Deja to take care of herself and occupy her siblings.
Deja's new school is very diverse and she has classmates of many races and religions. Her teacher introduces that their first unit will center on the the September 11th attacks. Deja has no idea what she is talking about. She feels unsure and confused about why teachers seem uncomfortable, and some of her classmates seem to have more knowledge than others. She also doesn't understand why her father is so upset when he finds out.
Through Deja's journey to understand what September 11th means to the country, her city, her community, and her family, she uncovers that this event hits closer to home than she would have ever thought. As she learns about the tragedy of that day, she will gain friendships, begin to understand how that day changed everything, and understand why her dad acts the way he does.
I really enjoyed reading this story. At times it was heart-breaking, but always had hope. Parker-Rhodes thoughtfully portrays what the new generation will experience as they learn about this tragic day. She shares it all with a sensitivity that is needed for young readers. Through Deja, the reader is shown what this day means and how it has had long lasting effects on the world around her.
I strongly recommend this book to teachers and middle grade book clubs. This book easily lends itself to a unit on September 11th. It will help a generation, that wasn't around when this tragedy happened, to better understand the history and impact of that very tragic day.