Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Nora Raleigh Baskin
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2016   ISBN: 978-1442485068

On September 9th, 2001, Sergio, Aimee, Naheed, and Will are all in Chicago airport, waiting for flights that will take them home. For just a few minutes the children’s lives connect, and then the connection is broken and they go their separate ways to their respective homes in New York, California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Sergio had a rough start in life. When he was a little boy he and his mother lived in shelters and on the streets and when she died Sergio wandered off. Thankfully Sergio was found and taken to a hospital and soon after his maternal grandmother, Nana, came to get him. Sergio has been living with Nana ever since and she has given him love, support, and a stable home. The morning after Sergio gets back from Chicago, where he was attending an award ceremony, Sergio’s father turns up. At first Sergio dares to hope that his father really wants to see him and be with him, but, as per usual it turns out that all his father wants is money.

Deeply hurt by his father’s betrayal, Sergio does not go to school. Instead he heads to Manhattan where he meets an off-duty firefighter called Gideon. Together Gideon and Sergio help a man who has a fall on a subway train. By pure chance Sergio makes a friend.

Soon after her family gets home from their trip Naheed begins middle school. For the first time Naheed wishes she did not have to wear a hijab. She does not want to stand out. She does not want Eliza asking her obnoxious questions about her religion. She does not want the boys sniggering and making unkind remarks about her appearance.

Aimee is now living in Los Angeles. Her mother was offered a job there that she felt was too good to pass up. Aimee had to leave behind her life in Chicago, including all her friends, her school, and her home. What makes things worse is that Aimee’s mother is attending a meeting in New York and she is not around when Aimee starts her new school. Aimee so desperately needs her mother’s support at this time.

A year ago Will’s father was killed when he stopped on the highway to help a motorist in distress who was parked on the side of the road. He always told Will that one should never stop on a highway, but this is what he does and he ends up being killed when a passing car collides with the parked one. Will and his family have had a hard time adjusting. Their grief is not as raw as it was, but it is still there. Will also feels angry because his father did something foolish which cost him his life. The fact that what he did was an act of kindness and compassion makes Will’s feelings all the more confusing.

On September 11th Naheen and Sergio are in their respective schools when four planes flown by terrorists attack targets in New York and Washington D.C. Aimee is desperately trying to talk to her mother who is about to leave her hotel to attend her meeting in the World Trade Towers. Will is supposed to be on his way to school, but instead he is kissing a girl called Claire when a huge commercial plan flies right over their heads and a few seconds later crashes to the ground.

In this beautifully written book the author brings four young people together briefly in an airport and then she sends them on their way, only bringing them back together at the end of the story. She shows us how four very different young people deal with their own personal problems on September 9th and 10th, 2001. Those same lives are radically changed by the events of September 11th and the children, and their families, are united by the tragedy.