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Towers Falling


Towers Falling

Jewell Parker Rhodes’s TOWERS FALLING not only recalls some people’s stories of the tragic day in history known as 9/11, but also explores how that day affected America and the next generation of its citizens. This story follows fifth grader Deja as she learns about 9/11, an event that she doesn’t really care about because the whole thing happened before she was even born.

Deja is a tough girl whose family is living in a homeless shelter. When she’s not in school, she spends most of her time taking care of her younger brother and sister because her Mama is always working and her Pop is always sick and mysteriously distant from his family. This all frustrates Deja and she is angry more than a majority of the time, both with her Pop and her life.

“With both an emotional and a visual aspect...TOWERS FALLING has a certain level of beauty not often associated with stories of tragedy….”

For this reason she’s always had trouble making friends, until she meets Ben and Sabeen at her new school. The three of them are all very different. Ben is originally from Arizona, but when his parents got divorced he moved to New York with his mom. Sabeen comes from a very respectable Muslim family. Through kindness and understanding of each other’s backgrounds, the three of them become good friends.

TOWERS FALLING begins simply with Deja learning to accept friendship. She realizes she belongs in different circles of people that have strong bonds. Deja belongs to a circle of family, a circle of friends and all the different circles she belongs to connect with each other. There is also a circle for everyone who lives in America that draws us all together. Throughout the book there are diagrams of these circles demonstrating that we are all connected. This makes learning about the event stronger for Deja because it illustrates that, as American citizens, 9/11 happened to all of us. This allows Deja to realize that 9/11 affected people she’s connected to, including her friends and family, and, therefore, her by association.

It’s one thing to write a book that recalls a historical event, but it’s another to bring it to life in the present --- Rhodes does just this. Through learning about 9/11, Deja grows into a smarter, stronger person right before the reader’s eyes. Fifth graders her age or other people from a generation that wasn’t born before September 11, 2001 will be able to read this story and experience learning about this American tragedy and how it affects their world today in ways they may not even be aware of. Parents or older readers who experienced 9/11 who read this book will appreciate its sensitivity and emotion Rhodes puts into writing about this event. This book is a good starter for a discussion between the two generations as to what that day was really like, how things have changed since then and the meaning behind 9/11.

Rhodes also tells the story of the World Trade center as a building, including the history of when it was built. She simultaneously is able to tell the story of the people who remember 9/11 and the people, like Deja, who are just learning about it.

Rhodes uses more than text to tell these different stories. With both an emotional and a visual aspect through Deja’s circle diagrams, school project, essays and her friend Ben’s drawings, TOWERS FALLING has a certain level of beauty not often associated with stories of tragedy but that can be connected with heritage and America’s past, which connects our country. Emotionally bringing the past into the present ensures that TOWERS FALLING will reach a wide audience of readers who are sure to be affected by Rhodes’ words.

Reviewed by Angela Warsinske on July 20, 2016

Towers Falling
by Jewell Parker Rhodes