Middle Grade Monday: Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Towers Falling
Author: Jewel Parker Rhodes
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co., 2016. 228 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
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, Deja 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?

My Review: 
This deceptively simple book has some elements that are too predictable--any adult will know from the beginning what the trouble is with Deja's Pop, for example--but it does do what the author sets out to do: presents the story of 9-11 in a way that will be accessible to children born long after the rubble of the towers was cleared. Rhodes brings up issues of race and prejudice, and the children all have their own issues to deal with.

In fact, at times the relationships and circumstances feel a little too contrived. The friendship between Deja, Ben, and Sabeen is too instant and too smooth, and their three separate issues are a little too neatly complementary. Deja lives in a homeless shelter while Ben seems to have everything he could want, but of course his family is falling apart while hers sticks like glue no matter what. Sabeen has enough money and an extended family, but must deal with being Muslim in America.

In the end, the story reads well, and kept my interest despite the weaknesses, but I never really lost sight of the author's goal of making a book "that teachers could teach" about the attack on the World Trade Center.

My Recommendation:
I'd say that this is a book to use exactly as the author intends: as a supplement to explaining 9-11 to children. In fact, because of the subject matter, a child not familiar with the attack should probably not be turned loose to read it without some guidance, though the author does work hard to present the whole thing in a way that won't traumatize children, even while conveying the horror of it.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Towers Falling out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


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