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Children's books about Sept. 11 try to explain the unexplainable
By Samantha Critchell, Associated Press
There really are no words to describe the events, the emotions and the repercussions of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but a new book of children's illustrations that interpret the destruction of the World Trade Center reminds us that a picture is worth a thousand words.
The 83 colorful pictures by 5-to-18-year-old artists from the New York metropolitan area featured in "The Day Our World Changed: Children's Art of 9-11" (Abrams) also might fuel discussion between parents and youngsters about how they are personally coping with the aftermath.
The images, simple but wise beyond their young creators' years, also seem to give the attacks some historical perspective. Pictures depict the planes ramming the buildings, the hole left in New York's skyline, the collective mourning of an entire region and how a tragic event brought people together.
"The Day Our World Changed" is the result of a joint project by the New York University Child Study Center and the Museum of the City of New York. A companion exhibit is planned at the museum.
Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani wrote the book's introduction, quoting Pablo Picasso on how art can help people understand the inconceivable.
He also says the tone of the children's artwork should be an inspiration to all. "That our children can express their hopes for a peaceful world in their drawings encourages us all to look forward with optimism," Giuliani writes.
The New York Times deals with Sept. 11 by combining straightforward reporting with compassionate photos and commentary in "A Nation Challenged: A Visual History of 9-11 and Its Aftermath" (Callaway). A "Young Reader's Edition" of this(Scholastic Nonfiction) is available with more visual aids and fewer wordy explanations. There are detailed graphics to show how the towers fell, the layout of the Pentagon and what the inside of a mountain bunker used by al-Qaida looks like.
A glossary in the children's version addresses formerly unfamiliar words such as "Koran" and "reconnaissance aircraft." The book also offers suggestions on what youngsters can do to help in the aftermath, including planting a tree to commemorate the victims and befriending someone who looks different from them.
"On That Day" (Tricycle Press) by Andrea Patel, with its origami-style illustrations, also focuses on whatever positive messages can be taken from the tragedy.
The book, which clearly targets a young audience, urges children, depicted in different races and backgrounds, to play ball together, take care of the environment and be kind to people.
"With Their Eyes" (HarperTempest) is for a different audience: the peers of Stuyvesant High School students, whose personal accounts of the New York attacks are the basis of the book.
The school, located just four blocks from ground zero, offered these teenagers a front-row seat. Many reported hearing the bang when the first plane hit one of the twin towers and feeling the ensuing tremble.
"I saw the whole thing, I saw something hit the building, and then everyone was just laughing. Everyone was laughing. So, I -- I went back up to class, and then the teacher was just teaching a lesson like nothing happened. I was talking to some of my friends," writes sophomore Kevin Zhang of the first collision.
"I was ... I was asking if they saw the plane. They're like `yeah' `n' (sic) they were like, laughing, and it was like: `This guy was blazed. This guy was just totally stoned. Some moron hit the building.'
"And then we went to Spanish class and then, the second plane hit. I actually saw a guy. He threw a chair out the window, and then ... That's when everyone started caring. Yeah, before everyone was just thinking it was a joke."
Some of the students' monologues, which also have been turned into a play, evoke tears while others will make readers smile.
Mary Pope Osborne's "New York's Bravest" (Knopf), illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, doesn't directly deal with Sept. 11, but the author says the book wouldn't exist if the terrorist attacks hadn't happened.
The picture book resurrects the character of Mose Humphreys, who was featured in Osborne's "American Tall Tales." He is based on a real firefighter in New York during the 1840s.
In this story, Mose is missing after rescuing all the civilians inside a
burning building. His colleagues honor him as a hero and carry on as Mose
would want them to.