In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers

Growing up, I remember my parents telling me about where they were when Kennedy was shot and when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. These are moments that shape a generation, and no matter how much time goes by, the memories people have refuse to dim. For me, that event was the September 11 attacks; I can remember exactly what I did that day, things people said to me, and how it felt to watch the second plane make contact. It was chilling for me the first time I realized that there are young adults who were born too late to have any memory of these events or what life was like before they occurred.

In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers was published to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Presented as a nonfiction graphic novel, it chronicles the events from the moment the first tower is struck through the eyes of rescuers, survivors, and observers. Important players in the story are included by name along with direct quotes when appropriate, enhancing both the historic effect of this book and its legitimacy. Poignant and emotional, this historic account of the September 11 attacks and their aftermath is an important addition to libraries for young adult readers. Please see my full review here.

I don’t read a huge number of graphic novels, but when I do, I am stunned by their careful execution in both text and imagery. In this book, the narrative is split between lines of explanation and word bubbles, their font and placement discerning one from the other. Compelling phrasing like “an army of ghosts” and “a nightmare of debris” creates haunting images that couple expertly with the illustrations themselves. Though the number of words used is far less than traditional books, the depth of understanding that comes from this book is nonetheless profound.

Chilling illustrations depict the events of the September 11 attacks through a specific and limited color palette of grays, blues, and browns. Faces and settings are not always shown in detail, but their presentation and appearance are intentional and lend a subdued feeling to the book. Just as the dust obscured the air for first responders, so too does the reader feel helpless amidst the rubble. Specific design choices make each page stand out, occasionally causing readers to linger over particularly dramatic moments.

Extensive back matter demonstrates the level of research that went into creating this story. Statistics, notes, an afterward, and a bibliography enhance the teachings provided in the book itself. As a graphic novel, this story is easily accessible to a wide range of readers, especially those who would not otherwise be comfortable reading a weighty, nonfiction text. This important book is a valuable inclusion to libraries for young adult readers.

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