Seven and a Half Tons of Steel: a Post-9/11 Story of Hope and Transformation by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel: a Post-9/11 Story of Hope and Transformation by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Peachtree Publishing Company, Inc, 2021. 9781682633281

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Paperback

What did you like about the book? The opening images of this non-fiction picture book show a plane flying overhead, and then into the World Trade Center. The text starts with a brief description of the events of September 11th, stating simply that the towers collapsed, leaving nearly 3000 people dead. The book goes on to tell the story of the building of the USS New York, a Navy ship made in part with steel from a beam recovered from one of the twin towers. From the process of building the hull of the ship in New Orleans to the ship’s journey to New York and beyond, the USS New York is presented as a symbol of hope after the devastation of 9/11. Back matter features a cross section illustration of the ship along with statistics and an explanation of the crest. Throughout the book the watercolor and pastel illustrations evoke scenes of the aftermath of the World Center collapse and the building of the USS New York.

Anything you didn’t like about it? While the illustrations throughout the book are smoky and atmospheric, the book opens with a stark image of an airplane flying into the world trade center that might be jarring for some readers. Nowhere in the text does it say that planes were intentionally flown into the building, instead simply stating that the building collapsed, with no explanation. Readers who don’t already have an understanding of September 11th might not get the significance of the use of the reclaimed steel from one of the towers, or why people across the country came to see the USS New York.

The book covers the building of the ship in New Orleans. We are told that Hurricane Katrina caused the work to stop until “Kamp Katrina” could be built. This seems like an unnecessary detour into a complex story.

To whom would you recommend this book?  4th – 7th graders who have an understanding of the events of September 11th already.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries, elementary and middle school libraries

Where would you shelve it ?  929.92

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Kerry Lamare, Robbins Library, Arlington MA

Date of review: September 10, 2021

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