Los Angeles Times
July 5, 2012
There’s no easy way to talk with children about disasters. Parents and teachers can omit the disturbing details, but eventually the truth comes out. So how do we introduce kids to this kind of information? That’s the question Lauren Tarshis seeks to answer with “I Survived” – a historical fiction series for middle-grade readers. The sixth book, which has just been published, is “I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001” (Scholastic, $4.99 paper).
Tarshis was reluctant to write about 9/11. A mother of four, she worked a mile from the World Trade Center at the time of the disaster and was actually traveling on an airplane that day. She’s been trying to put it all behind her ever since. But after receiving thousands of emails suggesting she write about “the planes in the trade center,” she decided to create a “siloed (story) that would satisfy children’s curiosity but spare them the horrific and political aspects and religious overtones.”
Disturbing as the Sept. 11 attack is, the subject is ideal for Tarshis’ readers, who weren’t alive when it happened but whose lives have been shaped by the after-effects. Still, “I Survived” is not a nonfiction blow-by-blow. It’s a fictionalized account from the perspective of 11-year-old Lucas, whose father and uncle are New York firefighters. Lucas lives in a suburb but has taken the train into the city on his own that morning, emerging from Penn Station and using the World Trade Center towers to navigate his way to his Uncle Benny’s fire station. Hearing the roar of the first plane, he looks up and sees it “plunged like a knife into the side of one of the buildings.”