“People always talk about the weather when they don’t have anything else to talk about…But after that day the weather, and the way people remembered it, became something more; something potentially more deceptive, and yet something much more meaningful, more fragile and rare, and even more beautiful.” (nine, ten, Baskin.)
Like many people, one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of what happened on September 11th, 2001 is how beautiful the morning was. I’d been married less than a month, and my husband and I both remember talking about what a perfect day it was. (This is Iowa, after all, and even newlyweds talk about the weather!) By the time I was on my way to the dentist, NPR was talking about the the first plane hitting, and while my teeth were being cleaned, I could hear the TV in the other room reporting what would become days of confusion, disaster, missing people, and so many questions.
Nora Raleigh Baskin’s book, nine, ten, arrives almost exactly fifteen years after the tragedy, and its timing is fitting in more ways than just that. We might have lost a piece of our innocence that day, and we might have come together in shock, but as a country we also quickly fell into the easy habit of creating heroes and villains to explain away what happened. Seeing Baskin’s characters in the days just before 9/11 gives readers some perspective on how the day might have affected very different kinds of people, making it easy to imagine how life-changing 9/11 would be for all of us.
With four main characters and what seemed like an intentionally choppy beginning, it could have been a more challenging read than I might have liked. But somehow, as I got to know the characters, jumping between them became much smoother and effortless. Although they aren’t connected until the very end of the book, they seem connected.
9/11 is not an easy topic for a middle grade book, but nine, ten would be a great way to introduce what it was, how it happened, and who it affected. We are still looking for heroes and villains today, and painting a whole group of people as being good or bad is very definitely a part of kids’ lives. This book could lead to a variety of discussions with kids. It might take place in the past, but the challenges continue.
nine, ten: a September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin