Three striking spreads open this well-paced book: First, readers see a spread dominated by clear skies, revealing a boy who looks up at an airplane that’s heading toward the Twin Towers. The second spread shows a crowded NYC street from the point of view of a driver, and in the car’s side mirror, we see a plane descending in the air. On the title page spread itself, we see a plane as its nose just touches the first tower on that fateful day in 2001. Illustrator Thomas Gonzalez does much to establish a mood of impending doom before the text even begins.
But the mood quickly shifts to one of triumph. Janet Nolan introduces us to the USS New York, the Navy ship whose bow is made from a beam from the World Trade Center towers. The book’s title comes from the beam’s weight, seven and a half tons of steel, which came to represent the resilience of the American people in the face of such a horrific tragedy. The steel was transferred to Louisiana for its metamorphosis into the bow of the Navy ship. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it ruined the homes of many of the ship’s builders, and Nolan briefly covers this tragedy as well.
Nolan’s recounting of the ship’s journey back to New York for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is reverent, as is her handling of the terror that spawned it. Gonzalez’s cinematic illustrations capture a wide range of emotions with grandeur and warmth. The book lacks sources at its close, but it does conclude with more facts about the ship.
This is a stirring tribute.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.