Friday, February 05, 2021

New York City and Ground Zero

Beckman, Beth and Maher, Holley. Little Kid, Big City: New York
February 1st 2021 by Quirk Books
Copy provided by the Publisher

Want to raise a world traveler? Look no further than this new series by Quirk books. Starting with New York, we get an overview of the things that make the city unique and interesting. Colorful illustrations take us on a tour of the Big Apple, starting at the Statue of Liberty, grabbing a bagel, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Other highlights include ferries and subways, a variety of food, and descriptions of the many neighborhoods that make up the city. Landmarks, such as The Strand bookstore, Grand Central Station, and the Bronx Zoo give young readers a good idea of the sites available to see in this vast metropolis. The end of the book has an Adventure Index, with fun facts and well as web site links, and a very vague map that folds out. (I don't go anywhere without very detailed maps, and this does not give roads, just the sites, so wasn't quite as useful.) 

The illustration style was such fun that I didn't care about the lack of photographs-- you can always pick up an older Fodor's or Lonely Planet guide at Half Price Books if you want those. This is a great way to encourage children to think outside of their own community and start to investigate other places that they might like to see when they are older. I'm not a fan of NYC, but I definitely want to take a look at the upcoming Little Kid, Big City: London (15 June 2021), since that is my favorite city in the world!

Gratz, Alan. Ground Zero
February 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

This book delivers the stories of both Brandon, a nine year old in New York City during the 9/11 attacks, and 11-year-old Reshmina, who lives in Afghanistan in the present day. Brandon has to go to work with his father, who works in Windows on the World in the World Trade Center because he got in trouble at school. He likes being with his father, but has made plans to run an errand in the underground mall when he gets a chance. This happens when there is a kitchen fire. Brandon sneaks off, but the elevator in which he is riding stops. The people in the elevator all work together to get out onto one of the floors, but when they do, they find that a plane has flown into the building. Brandon is frantic about his father and tries to go up to the restaurant, only to find he can't get there. With the help of Richard, a man whom he and his father had helped earlier that morning, Brandon tries to get out of the World Trade Center, which is no easy feat. In Reshmina's story, her family has suffered greatly over the years that the Taliban has been struggling for dominance and the US troops are in place trying to help. Many members of her family have been killed, including an older sister, at whose wedding celebratory gun shots were mistaken for attacks and resulted in the wedding party being attacked. Reshmina would like to be a teacher and move to Kabul, so is learning English, but her mother just wants her to get married young. Her grandmother, however, remembers Afghanistan before Taliban control, when women could hold jobs and even wear mini skirts, and consuls Reshmina to try to understand her mother's point of view. When Reshmina finds a wounded US soldier, she has him follow her home to get help, but this puts her family and entire village in grave danger. Both children have to fight against the odds to survive, and in the end, are more connected than we could have imagined. 
Strengths: This was absolutely harrowing. The details of what Brandon and Richard had to do just to get out of the building were vivid without being too graphic, and made me feel like I was right there. The same is true of Reshmina's struggles to try to keep her family safe when her twin brother is determined to join the Taliban and her village is under attack. There is a lot of information about what life was like for Reshmina, which was quite interesting, and the politics of the situation were well balanced. Notes at the back are helpful for young readers who won't have as  much familiarity with the topic. This is probably the best book about 9/11 that I've read.
Weaknesses: It seemed unlikely to me that Brandon would have gotten his father on the phone in the restaurant, or that Richard would have adopted him, but both are hopeful occurrences that ease the really dire air this book has. 
What I really think: I know that this author's Refugee is very popular, given that it covers three very different stories of immigration, and the two characters did meet up in a very clever way, but I rather wished this were two separate books. Both stories are very intense, and given the length of the book, it could easily have been two shorter stories. Since it is not, I will definitely purchase it anyway. 

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