Nearly 15 years after 9/11, the images of the day are imprinted on our collective mind, but many parents and educators struggle to discuss this complex, frightening topic with children. Projected onto this tragic picture, however, are our heroes—first responders as well as ordinary citizens—who stepped forward in extraordinary ways.
One such story is that of the 500,000 people who escaped the chaos and destruction by boat. Responding to the Coast Guard’s call for assistance and risking danger themselves, the captains and crews on boats of every kind carried people and supplies. Saved by the Boats is a moving tribute to those who sailed forward.
Both author Julie Gassman and illustrator Steve Moors were in New York City when the towers fell, lending their story a unique authenticity. Gassman was among the enormous crowds desperately waiting to leave Manhattan. Her vivid, descriptive language tells the story clearly, accented by quotes from witnesses that include boat crewmembers and bystanders. Moors gives us a sense of the city’s chaos through his detailed line drawings. Muted tones convey the gravity of the day, and the pages become progressively darker, while a vivid blue sky echoes throughout the story.
While the events of 9/11 are accurately portrayed, neither the illustrations nor the text are graphic or overtly frightening, making this an honest but accessible tool for elementary-age discussion. Like the two birds who take flight early in the story and reappear at the end, stories like Saved by the Boats are a reminder of freedom and hope.