Thursday, September 1, 2016

Seven and A Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

"Strength forged through sacrifice.
 Never forget."
My thoughts: It has been 15 years since that infamous day in September when America was attacked by terrorists using "homegrown" or routine means - airplanes loaded with passengers - to wreak havoc on three American locations. New York was home to the World Trade Towers and airplanes were flown into the sides of these massive towers resulting in their crumbling into a mass of human death out of which immense strength grew. From this wreckage was retrieved a steel beam, and that is the beginning of the story of Seven and a Half Tons of Steel.

To say this picture book is intensely moving is simplification. The bold art vividly and movingly depicts the story of what is known in history as 9/11. Though not a full story of that day, the text conveys in terse prose the day, the dreaded event, the result, and the weeping. The art and text carry a darkness about them. The story doesn't try to convey the immense loss and sorrow or the depth of this event on the peoples, the city, and the nation because the story in this book is what happened from the rubble of this disaster and how America has used this ruination to forge strength and service and protection for America.

It is a story of how steel workers took a battered, broken beam of steel from the Towers. How they carried it from New York to Louisiana (a very long truck journey). How steel workers melted that broken, wrecked steel beam until it was amazingly fiery hot and molded it into material that was shaped to become.....
....the bow of the USS New York LPD 21!
Now that bow plows through the mighty oceans of the World carrying over 700 combat ready Marine Corps troops, their equipment, and supplies. It has a landing platform/dock. It is staffed by up to 360 U.S. Navy sailors.  It is a symbol but it is also a piece of American strength.

I was moved to learn the symbolism of the shield. Each stroke and spot on the shield takes me back in my memory to that day, that time, those terrible deaths, the loss, and the victories. The men and women who served and the battles they won in the face of huge impossibilities to defeat the hopelessness that could have easily overtaken them, the American people.

I strongly encourage every library to acquire a copy of this for young people to read, and re-read, and then read again so that they can understand "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget."

About the book: There is a ship, a navy ship. It is called the USS New York. It is big like other navy ships, and it sails like other navy ships, but there is something special about the USS New York. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the governor of New York gave the Navy a steel beam that was once inside one of the World Trade Towers. The beam was driven from New York to a foundry in Louisiana. Metal workers heated the beam to a high, high temperature. Chippers and grinders, painters and polishers worked on the beam for months. And then, seven and a half tons of steel, which had once been a beam in the World Trade Center, became a navy ship's bow. This powerful story reveals how something remarkable can emerge from a devastating event. 

Peachtree Publishing has a terrific Teachers' Guide for studying and learning from the story in Seven and a Half Tons of Steel. It is filled with facts, questions, and crossword puzzles. Just click here to open it so you can download it yourself. Use at home or in school or library.

Purchase the book....? Click here 

Begins September 2
ENDS September 22 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Peachtree Publishers to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated. Winner's copy will be mailed directly to the winner by the publishers. Pictures used are property of Peachtree Publishing and/or Thomas Gonzalez and Chat With Vera claim no property rights to pictures.


  1. I remember not being able to get in touch with my daughter and being worried sick until I reached her. I also remember that when I first saw footage of one of the planes hitting the first tower, I thought I was watching a trailer for a new movie until I realized it was an actual event. I never will forget that day.

  2. It was just me and my husband on 9/11, and we were far away in Texas, but still I remember it impacted me deeply.

    But as someone who grew up on a boat made to be used in WWII, the story interested me in another way too.

  3. 1. I learned that author, Janet Nolan, knew almost nothing about forging steel or shipbuilding when I began researching this book.
    2. I learned that illustrator, Thomas Gonzalez, takes pictures of people he knows and other random shots to stage or help him with the mood of illustrations.
    3. This moving story shows how hope and strength can emerge out of pain and loss.

  4. That is so interesting that the beam was used for that purpose! I never knew that. Thanks for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday on this week! Always a pleasure to have you.

  5. We watch all the information they show on tv.


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