SAVED BY THE BOATS: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11

BookendsCindy:  Mine is a boating family and, as such, we’ve been rescued by other boaters and rescued others in turn. Even on small rivers and lakes, boaters follow an unwritten code to help other boaters: You don’t leave someone in distress on the water.

As citizens fled the twin towers on September 11, 2001, that code benefited over 500,000 people when the Coast Guard put out a call for help from any available boats. Julie Gassman, herself rescued by a boat that day, tells the story Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11 (2017).

Saved By the Boats by Julie GassmanGassman’s straightforward prose style is all the more powerful and moving for its simplicity, and Steve Moors’s accompanying illustrations are perfect for the story. In a palate of black, gray, dirty white, and flashes of sky blue, the art supports the emotion of the scenes.

I’ll be adding this title as another choice in my middle-school nonfiction picture book research project. Don’t miss the documentary, Boatlift, narrated by Tom Hanks recommended in the author’s note. You can watch it above. As one of the boaters says in the video, there’s a little bit of hero in each one of us; it’ll come out. And so it did that terrible day, in so many ways.

Lynn: This book tackles something I knew almost nothing about; I have only vague memories of reports of people being taken off Manhattan by boats. So I really appreciate it both as an important piece of history and as a very effective picture book providing youngsters who may know very little about 9/11 with just the right amount of straightforward information. Gassman writes about her boat rescue in the author’s note and a provides a helpful glossary as well. Her somber, matter-of-fact tone feels appropriate without being sensational, while Moors’ illustrations carry forward the tone and emotion of that day. My own memories, when I think about it, are in that same palette of grays and blacks.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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