Middle grade books about 9/11 are surprisingly rare. When I was creating this list, I expected that I’d be drowning in choices seeing as this was such a traumatizing event that changed the country forever. Thankfully, though, there are a few authors who have written stories set around the time from a variety of perspectives.
On this list you’ll find September 11 stories for tweens told from the perspectives of NYC residents, an Afghan boy, a Pakistani-American boy, a 9/11 firefighter’s daughter, and many more. One thing I love is that these books aren’t all dire stories without joy. They also still discuss the experience of being a middle schooler, finding good friends, and crushing on other kids.
Best Middle Grade Books About 9/11
Big Apple Diaries
Published: August 17, 2021
It’s the year 2000 in New York City. For 12-year old Alyssa, this means splitting time between her Puerto Rican dad’s apartment in Manhattan and her white mom’s new place in Queens, navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school, and an epic crush on a new classmate. The only way to make sense of it all is to capture the highs and lows in doodles and hilarious comics in a diary.
Then life abruptly changes on September 11, 2001. After the Twin Towers fall and so many lives are lost, worries about gossip and boys feel distant and insignificant. Alyssa must find a new sense of self and purpose amidst all of the chaos, and find the strength to move forward with hope.
Yusuf Azeem Is a Hero
Published: September 7, 2021
Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas—and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.
Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.
With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice?
I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 (I Survived Graphic Novel #4)
Published: September 7, 2021
The only thing Lucas loves more than football is his Uncle Benny, his dad’s best friend at the firehouse where they both work. Benny taught Lucas everything about football. So when Lucas’s parents decide the sport is too dangerous and he needs to quit, Lucas has to talk to his biggest fan.
The next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright, beautiful day in New York as Lucas heads to the firehouse. But just as he arrives, everything changes — and nothing will ever be the same again.
I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001
Published: July 1, 2012
On the day that shocks the world, one boy just wants to find his dad. A powerful addition to the gripping I SURVIVED series.
The only thing Lucas loves more than football is his Uncle Benny, his dad’s best friend at the fire department where they both work. Benny taught Lucas everything about football. So when Lucas’s parents decide the sport is too dangerous and he needs to quit, Lucas has to talk to his biggest fan.
So the next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright, beautiful day in New York. But just as Lucas arrives at his uncle’s firehouse, everything changes — and nothing will ever be the same again.
Published: July 13, 2021
Kate’s dad is a firefighter and now he’s sick from the September 11th attack in New York City almost twenty years ago. When Kate’s family relocates to Michigan, she meets a new friend, Paw Khu, and they set out to find the owner of a mysterious dragon postage stamp that her dad found near Ground Zero.
Published: February 2, 2021
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.
The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas
Published: January 12, 2021
Decades after the Vietnam War and Toby’s life-changing summer with Zachary Beaver, Toby’s daughter Rylee is at a crossroads―her best friend Twig has started pushing her away just as Joe, a new kid from New York, settles into their small town of Antler. Rylee befriends Joe and learns that Joe’s father was a first responder on 9/11. The two unlikely friends soon embark on a project to find Zachary Beaver and hopefully reconnect him with Rylee’s father almost thirty years later.
Published: June 22, 2010
Fadi never imagined he’d start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles away from home in Kabul. But, here he was, half a world apart from his missing six year old sister who’d been lost because of him, as they’d fled Afghanistan. Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war torn Afghanistan seem slim — impossible. Desperate, Fadi tries every hare-brained scheme he can think of to find her. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?
Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s experience fleeing Soviet controlled Afghanistan in 1979, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.
Related: Best Middle Grade Books Set in Asia
Published: July 12, 2016
When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Dèja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?
Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story
Published: June 28, 2016
Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center.
But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.
These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day—the day our world changed forever.
Just a Drop of Water
Published: September 2, 2014
Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart–and outrun–the rival cross country team, the Palmetto Bugs. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.
According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.
There they are: 11 of the best middle grade books about the events of 9/11. If you have more recommendations of middle grade books about 9/11, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
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