CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009
United We Stand.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2009.
178 pp., pbk, $14.95.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Tanya Boudreau.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
"You two here volunteering to help?" a man asked.
"Yes, sir," James said.
"Volunteer? I'd thought we were just coming here to watch, to see what was going on, and- "
"You two look pretty young."
"We're eighteen," James said, very definitely, looking him straight in the eyes.
The guy furrowed his brown like he didn't really believe us, but I guess they weren't looking to turn away fresh, rested volunteers. "Okay, sure. Go through that door and get gloves and masks and goggles. And you'll both need safety boots before they'll let you on the site."
"We don't have boots!" I pointed out. Finally, a reason why we couldn't go any-"
"No problem, they'll fit you with boots as well."
"Great. Thanks," James said.
"Those shoes of yours- they look like they'd be good for basketball, but they'd melt out there."
"Melt?" I asked.
"There are a lot of hotspots in the debris. Rubber-soled shoes like you're both wearing would turn into hot rubber goo. Get your equipment and come on back, and you'll be assigned to a work gang."
United We Stand is the sequel to We All Fall Down (2006). Fifteen-year-old Will and his dad, John, were in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the plane hit on September 11, 2001. They survive, but they have been injured. However, black phlegm and a bad cough won't stop Will from helping his best friend James, and a concussion and three fractured ribs won't stop Will's dad from getting his business up and running again.
As Will and his dad recall what they experienced during the attacks, they talk to many different people who were there that day. Readers will see what the structural engineer saw as the planes hit, and they will learn why some people were able to evacuate while others couldn't. Readers will find out what it was like for the families left waiting for their friends and loved ones to return, and they see how Will and John reacted the first time they watched the news coverage of the attack.
When Will and his dad arrive home, John and his assistant, Suzie, begin contacting workers and making arrangements for a new office while Will and his mom get ready to visit James. James and his mom are waiting for his dad to return home. He was one of the firefighters called out to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. James stayed at the fire station when the call came, but Will and his dad were the last people to see him alive. He was going up the stairs to rescue people while everyone else was going down the stairs to escape the building. No one knows if he got out before the building collapsed.
Although the book is very heartbreaking at times, it does show how strong and caring we can be. Strangers helped each other escape and survive. Will and his dad carried someone they didn't know down 74 flights of stairs when they were escaping, and, just like thousands of others did, Will and James went down to Ground Zero to help with the clean-up. Despite the dangerous conditions, they stayed to help.
The two friends in this book are dealing with different emotions. For Will, 9/11 doesn't seem real. He was there, but he cannot comprehend what almost happened to him. He is in denial about how close he came to being killed. James feels guilty for not being with his dad. He needs to be where his dad was last seen. When Will and James decide to go to Ground Zero, Will fights back feelings of dread and fear, but he continues so James won't be alone. Their friendship is just one of the examples in this story of what the title of this book exemplifies: United We Stand.
Award-winning Canadian author Eric Walters has written over forty-five books for children and young adults including Run, Northern Exposures, and Camp X. Prior to graduating from the University of Toronto with his Bachelor of Education degree, he obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Social Work. When he is not teaching or writing, he works part-time in a hospital emergency department.
Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.
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