GROUND ZERO, by Alan Gratz, Scholastic Press, Feb. 2, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 9-12)
Author Alan Gratz explores the events of 9/11 and its aftermath in Ground Zero, a new novel for middle readers.
September 11, 2001, New York City: Brandon is visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Out of nowhere, an airplane slams into the tower, creating a fiery nightmare of terror and confusion. And Brandon is in the middle of it all. Can he survive — and escape?
September 11, 2019, Afghanistan: Reshmina has grown up in the shadow of war, but she dreams of peace and progress. When a battle erupts in her village, Reshmina stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz — and put herself and her family in mortal danger?
Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same. —Synopsis provided by Scholastic Press
I came to a weird realization the other day. My 6-year-old will never know what life was like pre-9/11, and, her knowledge of 9/11 will come from books, media and remembrances. This realization came with an onslaught of emotions — anger, sadness, anxiety, and a little relief, too. It’s a day I would love to forget if I could, and I only watched things unfold on television.
Ground Zero is an emotional read. I was instantly transported back to Sept. 11, 2001. I can recall where I was, what I was doing, where my family was. Everything. From that sense, this book will most likely have a profound impact on adults. More importantly, it offers up a strong opening for conversation with our children, allowing them to see history through our eyes.
One of the things I love about Alan Gratz’s writing, is his ability to look at events from different viewpoints over the span of time. As is often the case, things are not as clear-cut as we would like them to be.
While each child’s story is heart-pounding and heart-breaking, its pairing with the other is what makes this book excellent. Gratz’s thoughtful insight is paired with questions not easily answered. He gives readers the framework, and then asks them to form their own beliefs.
Brandon and Reshmina are worlds apart but share the same traits of resiliency among the darkest of hours. It’s not hard to put yourself in either’s place.
Ground Zero is a fast-paced and cinematic read. It’s timely and heart-wrenching. I highly recommend this for all middle-readers (and their parents).