Daily Archives: August 8, 2013

Double Review: “I Survived” Series

I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001
by Lauren Tarshis
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I have been wanting to read this for a while, to see how true-to-life it was, and to compare it to another book in the series outside the author’s own memory. I was interested to see that there was a secondary storyline and how exactly the main character experienced each of the points on the timeline that day. Lucas lives outside of New York City and goes into Manhattan that day to see his father and “uncles” at their firehouse. He is near the towers when the first plane hits, then runs to the firehouse where he watches the second one hit on TV. Then he goes to meet his dad down at the scene and experienced the first tower falling, getting dragged into a drugstore by his father and describes the dust everywhere. For the falling of the second tower, they were back at the firehouse and most of the rest of the day is told as an epilogue. After the first tower falls, Lucas and his dad take cover. When they emerge, they have this exchange:

“‘Where is it?’ Lucas asked.
There was nothing but dust.
‘It’s all around us,’ Dad said.”

After the story, there is an equally moving “Why I Wrote About September 11,” a timeline of events, and Questions and Answers. I think this story in particular is appealing to American kids today because they were born after this day but it shapes many aspects of their world and is an event that touched the lives of nearly every adult they know. Many kids may even not have adults in their lives who are willing or able to talk about it, but they still need to know at some point what happened.

I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941
by Lauren Tarshis
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

This one is almost as frightening and detailed as the September 11 one and in many ways the events are very similar (attack on America by plane). I read the September 11 one first and Tarshis does a horrifyingly great job of making you feel like you were really there. From comparing the two, Tarshis seems to have been able to remove herself sufficiently from the one she actually witnessed so that the stories present themselves as equally objective. Kudos to her – I would find that very difficult! I think I liked this one better, personally, just because I wasn’t reliving that day and all those upsetting feelings; the story really was new to me and gave me something to grasp onto within this huge war whose European front was so thoroughly covered for me in school. One little rhetorical device I like is that the series is called I Survived, so you already know off the bat that the main character makes it through the day. I really enjoyed Danny’s story and he even grew as a character in just 100 pages, so I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about whether he lives or dies when his town is bombed. I also think that there is a fascination with war and adrenaline-rushing experiences, especially among boys, so those aspects will be enjoyed by young readers. It’s also a great introduction to history.