by Jewell Parker Rhodes
published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
July 12, 2016
What is historical fiction? This is a debate that I've heard a wide degree of valid points. Are there a certain amount of years that must pass in order for it to be considered historical fiction? Is it based upon the age of the person reading it? I'm not sure there is a hard and fast rule.
When I think of 9.11, I still remember it too vividly. But, when a book about 9.11's targeted audience is middle graders, who weren't alive, does it become historical fiction?
Rhodes takes on 9.11 but tells about it in a different frame. Our main character is ten years old and doesn't know about 9.11. Her family has sheltered her from it, but we don't know why. We know her father is ill and there seems to be a connection to 9.11. Rhodes also adds in being homeless, having a Muslim friend, and another friend whose father goes to fight in Iraq after the 9.11 attacks. All of these pieces are woven together to make a great story.
I think books like these are so important for our middle grade kids to read because it gives them perspective and information. I at first found it strange that a 10 year old character, who lives in Brooklyn, could not know about the events of 9.11. So I brought the conversation to my 10 year old. I asked her what she knew of that day. She knew something bad had happened and that a lot of people died. I had shown her the book so the only other detail she knew was that "towers fell". I asked her if she knew what that meant and she really didn't know any other details. I asked her if she knew how it happened and she thought the buildings had been gunned down. I was surprised how little she knew, but when I thought about it, I realized we probably really hadn't talked about it, which surprised me, but I guess not really. So often we shield our children, not having those tough conversations with them. I'm glad I have books like this to start those conversations that take time and make us talk about the tough topics.