Book cover: Towers Fallingby Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
228 pgs
Grades 3-7

Deja is starting 5th grade at a new school. This alone would be hard enough, but Deja is also living in a homeless shelter — all five of her family members sharing one room with no private amenities.

The irony of Deja’s situation is that the shelter is in the nicest neighborhood she has ever lived in, and her new school is much better than her old one. Being the new kid is hard, especially with a big secret, but Deja soon finds friends in Ben and Sabeen.

When their class begins learning about September 11, Deja is confused by the tension and sadness that she hears from friends and teachers. What could have happened that would make kids who weren’t even born yet so upset? Deja is confused and angry for feeling left out of the secret, but her confusion doubles when her father — always sick and never able to work — becomes irate when he finds out that Deja is learning about the towers.

Will Deja get to the truth of the towers and of her father’s issues? Or is figuring it all out too much for one 5th grader to handle?

Towers Falling is a beautifully written story that unfolds in small bits and pieces so that readers don’t really have the full puzzle until the end.

For many students, 9/11 is history – a story they may have heard about, but never experienced. Yet for the lifetimes of these same students, the US has been at war.

Use this book to spark discussion about 9/11 and to explore more deeply issues around war, conflict, beliefs, and community.