Gratz, Alan

Ground Zero

(2) 4-6 Nine-year-old Brandon Chavez has been suspended from school for fighting, so he goes to work with his father at Windows on the World, a restaurant on the 107th floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It is September 11, 2001. Brandon gets separated from his father before the disaster begins, then has to rely on, and help, strangers to survive. Fast-forward to September 2019, where Reshmina is an eleven-year-old Afghan girl living in a village miles from the capital of Kabul. Her older sister had been killed on her wedding day by an American drone, and her family struggles with the fear and poverty caused by a lifetime of war. Reshmina tries to talk her twin brother out of joining the Taliban for work and revenge, while reluctantly giving shelter to a wounded American soldier. Gratz (Refugee, rev. 11/17; Grenade, rev. 11/18) moves back and forth between the two narratives in short, nail-biting chapters that create a vivid picture of each setting and make readers feel invested in each character's relationships and choices, and in the high-stakes global forces that affect the intimate details of their lives. Big and small questions and lessons offered within the story worlds make this a great discussion starter (though some readers may benefit from additional context about Islam). A detailed author's note explains how Gratz used historical fact to inform his thought-provoking novel.


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