This month on From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors, my posting assignment fell today, on September 11. Right away I was sure that I wanted to write a post about national tragedies and how we can help children access them through books written just for them.
Life conspired and I was away from home, stuck at a relative’s house without transportation. I certainly could have done most of my research on the computer but my time and energies were limited and I just didn’t feel that I could do the article justice. I also really wanted to read all the books I posted about before sharing them on that particular platform. At the same time, I was immersed in family history and strolling through the bookshelves there at the house where I was staying gave me a different idea to fall back on. In the end, I had to use that backup plan to meet my deadline.
I wish I had been able to write that other post, for middle grade students and their teachers. My own daughter was a fifth grader when the Twin Towers fell to terrorists. She was 10 years old when our nation changed forever. I worked at her school and wasn’t really sure how I felt when they made the decision not to address it at all with students. The older ones needed something, I could tell. I still don’t know how I feel about the fact that no one was allowed to speak.
I know that our news reporting is not the place for children. My husband and I were very careful at the time following attacks not to watch non-stop after taking in those first reports (I was watching the morning news when it all went down, live), though it was very difficult not to do so. For our daughter’s sake, we needed to spend more time at the kitchen table doing life and talking about what had happened if it came up, and less time glued to the scenes of horror and unspeakable sorrow.
In accessing big ideas, my first fallback is always books. I know that books can help people to cope, and to understand larger issues. I know that inside the pages of a book, a person searching for answers, for understanding, for a touch-point for feelings, can find a place to just be. Of course the trick is finding the right book, especially for kids. It’s one reason I was not able to complete the article I wanted to write. Still, I want to share something on this day, something that helps us to see how events shape our lives, and how we can help young people to access big ideas about events like these.
I’m still searching for the right books to share with students about national tragedy, both our own disasters and those in other places, sometimes sudden occurrences like the planes hitting the towers, which shake us to the core, and sometimes tragedies played out over several months or years.
So for today, since I couldn’t write the complete and polished article for the Mixed Up Files that I wanted to, I’ll share with these few personal feelings and a short list of books I’ve read or want to read that might help me (and you, and your children) understand some big ideas better, from a wide variety of perspectives.
Then, I’ll join the Facebook event called “On September 11 Write about a Peaceful World” and write a different story. You don’t have to be a writer to join, and you’re invited, too.
This is a very short list. I’ve given no commentary. You’ll have to explore these titles for your selves.
14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
On That Day: A Book of Hope for Children, by Andrea Patel
With Their Eyes: September 11th – The View from a High School at Ground Zero, edited by Annie Thoms
The President Has Been Shot!, by James L. Swanson
High Hopes, by Deborah Heiligman
Benno and the Night of Broken Glass, by Meg Wiviot
A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, by Jan Coates
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, by Loic Dauvillier and Greg Salsado
There are many things we should never forget. Today, my heart is with our nation.