Ground Zero Cover Reveal by Alan Gratz
On September 11, 2001, I was an eighth-grade English teacher in Tennessee. When news of the attacks in New York City hit our school community, we collected the students in the gym, wheeling in blurry TVs with bad reception as all of us—teachers and students—struggled to understand what was happening. No one had a smartphone. There was no Facebook, no Twitter. Instead we turned to one another with the questions we were asking: What was going on? Why would someone do this? Would there be more attacks? Were we now at war? And with whom? What would happen next?
There was only one thing we knew for certain: Nothing would ever be the same.
Every adult in America remembers where they were on 9/11. But a new generation of young people doesn’t have that touchstone experience. My own daughter was born a year after 9/11 and will graduate from high school this year. For today’s middle-grade readers, September 11, 2001, is history.
I wanted to bring that history to life in my new novel, Ground Zero, through the story of nine-year-old Brandon, who experiences all the panic, uncertainty, and fear of September 11 as he tries to escape the North Tower of the World Trade Center after the first plane hits. But equally important to me is the story of how the world has changed since 9/11. For that, I focus on eleven-year-old Reshmina, an Afghan girl struggling to survive the present-day war between the United States and the Taliban. Brandon and Reshmina’s stories—and how they connect—show just how far-reaching the events of that day continue to be.
For all its horrors, 9/11 is also the story of people coming together to help one another in a time of crisis. And for all the death and destruction the war has brought to Afghanistan, it has also meant the end of the Taliban as the country’s official rulers, and more freedom for women and girls. Ground Zero explores these contradictions, highlighting how people are often at their best when the worst happens and how impossible it is to make the right decision when both outcomes are unacceptable. These are universal experiences that ignore nationality and religion and culture—challenges that unite us as human beings—and I believe that fiction helps young people understand these big, scary topics and empathize with the people enduring them.
The year 2021 will mark the twenty-year anniversary of 9/11. Will it also mark the twenty-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan? Time will tell. One way or another, we still live in a world reshaped and redefined by what happened in those 102 frightful minutes on a bright blue September morning in 2001. It’s more important than ever to help new generations understand how we got from there to where we are today.
From Aimee Friedman, Editorial Director, Scholastic Press:
A new Alan Gratz novel is always a big moment for us, and the art director and I spend a lot of time talking through the cover direction with our colleagues and making sure we’re getting everything just right. For this book–a poignant and heart-racing take on September 11th and its ripple effects–we knew we wanted an iconic image that evoked the 9/11 attacks. Our first thought was to show the Twin Towers, where half of the story takes place. But after reviewing some sample sketches of the burning towers, and after much discussion amongst our team and with the author, we decided to go a different route. In the end, we felt that showing “ground zero” itself–the destruction and devastation left in the wake of the New York City attacks–was an incredibly powerful statement. It’s an image that ties in closely with the themes of the book, and the notion of kids caught in the middle of real devastation The color palette and composition deliberately echo Alan Gratz’s other bestselling titles, so readers know that they are in for another riveting story by a truly masterful author.
The cover was designed by Yaffa Jaskoll, and the art is by HitandRun.
Alan Gratz is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for young readers, including Grenade; Refugee; Projekt 1065, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016; Prisoner B-3087, a Junior Library Guild selection that was named to YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list; and Code of Honor, a YALSA 2016 Quick Pick. Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Look for him online at alangratz.com.