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In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers Educator Guide

Lesson Plan
SLC's Educator Guides bring you a go-to set of curated resources, lesson plans, and author insights to help you introduce and share quality literature with your students and teachers. Books are selected by SLC's editing team based on advanced copies of the titles and reviews from their school librarian reviewers.
In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers

Don Brown's nonfiction graphic novel, In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks (HMH 2021) recounts through vivid detail and illustrations the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001. Told through the perspective of a documentarian piecing together the stories of the day, this book will bring a new generation of readers into the moment-to-moment chaos of September 11 and the reverberating effects in the weeks and years that followed.

To help you make the most of this title in the library and classroom, we're sharing these resources:

Curriculum ideas and recommended book pairings below and student lessons in the left-hand menu

"Effects of September 11," a student activity with Educator Guide from ABC-CLIO's American History database.

Curriculum Ideas & Book Pairings by Suzanne Libra

Don Brown's In the Shadows of the Fallen Towers takes us from the horrifying first minutes and hours through the days and years after the planes hit the Twin Towers. Today's middle school students weren't even born when this event occurred. They've heard of it, but probably do not have a deep understanding of how that day unfolded or why it occurred. This graphic novel is a great way to walk students through the events and issues of that day and the years of conflict and confusion that followed.

Setting the Stage for Collaborations

For people who were alive at the time, the events of September 11, 2001, were shocking and unforgettable. Students today have a more historical understanding of that day, if they know about it at all. A good way to begin teaching Brown's graphic novel might be with a KWL chart to explore what students already know about the events and motivations of the attackers and what they would want to know more about. They can use the third column to note what they learn as they go along.

Social Studies and Art

For librarians collaborating with social studies teachers, especially in eighth grade, they could introduce the topic of history depicted through pictures and illustrations by reviewing Paul Revere's engraving about the Boston Massacre ( The Gilder Lehrman website has a great analysis of the image and some of the social forces that helped create that image ( This could be contrasted with an image of the Tribute in Light memorial to the September 11 attacks. (

The discussion could include examining available technology, art styles, and intent. The art teacher would also be a great resource to discuss art styles, images, symbolism, and color. Another potential compare/contrast assignment would be between the art in Brown's book and Picasso's Guernica. A projection of Guernica and a page from the graphic novel would provide for deep discussion or could serve as a writing prompt. In addition to looking at the images, social studies classes could look at the format of the book. Why a graphic novel? What does a graphic novel communicate that text alone does not? Students could compare contemporary news accounts, nonfiction books about September 11, or other graphic novels about historical events to generate theories about authorial intent and effect.

Language Arts and Book Pairings

If the librarian is working with Language Arts teachers, In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers can act as a mentor text for looking at historical fiction. Students could look at other factual accounts of September 11, graphic novels that recount other historical events, fictional accounts around the attacks, and even movies, music, and art. Some examples of comparison books include Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown and Company 2016), I survived the Attacks of September 11 by Lauren Tarshis (Scholastic 2012), Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos (Scholastic 2006), and Ground Zero by Alan Gratz (Scholastic 2021). Although not related to September 11, the March series by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (Penguin Random House 2013-2016) and even Sons of Liberty by Alexander and Joseph Lagos (Penguin Random House 2010) bring historical events to life. Lessons could include a discussion of facts versus fiction, the power of images, and primary versus secondary sources. A final assignment could be to have students create a few pages of their own graphic novel (by hand or digitally) on an event they have lived through; it could be a local event (fire, blizzard, flood), a national event (the events of January 6, 2021), or an international occurrence (climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic). In creating their pages, they would need to be very intentional about their goals as an author and artist: Are they informing? Are they biased? Are they projecting into the future?

Use the lessons included in the left-hand menu to further your exploration of this book in the library and classroom.

About the Author

Suzanne Libra is is a retired teacher-librarian, formerly of Silver Hills Middle School in Westminster, Colorado.

MLA Citation

Libra, Suzanne. "In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers Educator Guide." School Library Connection, August 2021,

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Entry ID: 2266178