Some definitions provide meanings of words that are vividly depicted and described. Others relate to situations that will evoke emotions and emotional experiences that we might choose to forget. Terrorism is defined in this book as, “the use of violence to frighten people in an attempt to make them behave or think in a different manner.” Our main character is a young boy who comes home from school, sees the television on and then reads an alert that will change the lives of many people. “BREAKING NEWS: BOMBINGS, TERRORISTS, CASUALTIES! “Calling his mom to tell her what he has seen on the television caused alarm. Mom was working in the kitchen and until he alerted her to the news crisis she never saw it coming. When things are such that a parent might want to shelter a child they often skirt around the issue and in this case she shut off the television, but a text from his aunt to his mother while doing his homework at the kitchen table confirms that something serious has happened. Check the picture on page 11. The subject was avoided during dinner and the child went to bed grateful for the security of his stuffed animals all around him.
School did not bring anything new with math and Language Arts on the morning agenda. He chose to write about soccer in his journal rather than the story in the news. Not only did he have to fear what he heard on television but he was also worried about Jack, the school bully who terrorized him. The bus ride home was the usual, arriving to find his living room television blaring more stories about the attack. His little sister, Zookie, was too young to comprehend and was unfazed by it all. Fear takes on an ugly face and head as you see the pictures on page 33 which depict not only the attack but his fear of Jack. School the next day made him feel safer and calm but when his teacher announced they were going to have a lockdown drill, the gravity of the situation and the attacks became real. The children were instructed not to talk, pull down the shades, knees up, heads down and wait for instructions. The Principal would tour the building and make sure that if someone looked inside any of the rooms they would not see anyone. The doors would be locked. Check out the lockdown on page 39 (just like schools are required to do in real life) and understand that they had to be quiet, stay still, not move and remain in the position on the floor or under a desk to stay safe.
It’s scary to say the least for young children that are really unsure of why and what to expect if a stranger came to the school and wanted to cause harm. When he returned home he did his homework but could not use the computer for current events. His brother Noah’s school had a different serious drill, one that required that all students and staff evacuate the building and stay quiet and in place. Watching his brother play video games, he realizes that they can reset the game, but not real life.
Finally, he approached his parents and asked what this was all about and they finally explained it to them in detail on page 46. Their message conveyed that there are many different kinds of people in the world and some will try and hurt others. They break the rules, the laws and some are full of hate and anger. Scary to say the least. Some hate because you may have different ideologies than they do. These people terrify others and that’s why they are called Terrorists. Fear at times takes control and makes things worse and you cannot walk around in fear. News programs show the same thing over and over again so that people will be more aware, more vigilant and stay safe. Check out our narrator on page 49 with his parents and page 51 where you see fire engines, ambulances and other members of law enforcement pictured doing their jobs. The illustration on page 53 portrays the many different people in the community that are good and will keep you safe so that you do not have to walk around being afraid. The Department of Homeland Security works days and night to keep America safe. The reader learns that there are guards, metal detectors in many places, and that airports have security checks, special policemen, detectives and undercover agents who are dressed in plain clothes but you just can’t see them. The most important thing his brother learned, and you should too, is “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING: SAY SOMETHING! “
>Talking with his father he learned that it is normal be afraid. Be aware of where you are and stay alert. Trust is a hard thing at times but his parents, teachers, police, firemen, Homeland Security are all there to make sure that you do not spend your days worrying about terrorists and being scared. So, will he continue to be scared when he goes out alone?
After the picture story, the author adds a section for parents that deals with how to explain these concepts to children. It focuses on lockdown drills, news reports, sudden blasts of information and the offering of reassurance. Added in, it teaches how to conduct conversations, how to explain information and understand that they are the primary and first source of information. The next is called: P-E-A-R-L-S: Prepare, Explain, Answer, Reassure, Listen and Safeguard. This section is explained in detail and each word that is defined will help parents, teachers, guardians, family members, clergy, guidance counselors, principals, therapists, discussion group leaders, police, firemen, Homeland Security and others to help all of us understand what do to when something happens. But, it also included guidelines for tolerance, understanding, making sure you get the right information, not being prejudiced or judgmental, and making sure that children see that you the adult is patient, and does not pass judgment so that they can speak freely and open up with their thoughts and questions. Talking points are offered.
This book is an outstanding resource for all adults, children, teachers and anyone who wants to speak about Terrorism in an informed way. So about, Please Explain Terrorism to Me! Read the book, understand the reasons why people commit terrorist acts and by all means speak up; say something if anything seems odd or out of place. This is a great book for discussion groups in schools to help students understand terrorism. Teachers might even ask students to write their own questions based on the information to begin the talks or add to other talks at another time. Let’s hope someday that will not need to have these talks anymore.
>Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine