In Janette Winter's picture book, Nasreen's Secret School, that oppression is at the center of daily life for girls in Afghanistan. In a country where art, music, and poetry once flourished, Nasreen's father has been taken by the Taliban, her mother is missing, and her grandmother is determined to get her an education. Secret schools for girls were the only option, and the danger was ever-present. Educating girls would be a crime as long as the Taliban was in power.
Dot 3: Nine, Ten and Towers Falling
Which brings us back to September 2001, and another dot.
Nine, Ten, a middle-grade novel by Nora Raleigh Baskin, can gently lead the way to an understanding of the tragedy of 9/11. The focus is not the events of that day, but rather the story of the two days leading up to it as told through the eyes of four kids whose lives are about to be changed. Will, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, is struggling with the loss of his father; Aimee's mom has to go to New York all the time for her banking job; Naheed is being bullied for wearing the hijab; and Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, has just made friends with an NYC firefighter. Cleverly woven, this book is a good way to start the conversation with kids, without delving too deeply into the terrible events of the day itself.
A way to continue the gentle conversation is Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. For us adults, it's hard to imagine that there is a whole generation of children that is so far removed from that day, who see it as a remnant of the ancient past. Fifth grader Dèja is one of those kids. She and her family live in a shelter because her father is too sick to work. She doesn't know why he is sick or why he gets so depressed. She doesn't even know two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. When Dèja has a school project on 9/11, what she thought she knew falls away, only to find healing at the end.
Dot 4: America is Under Attack and In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers
Where to go next is more difficult. There is no way to avoid the big dot. And there is no way to make it easy for kids to understand.