The Picture Book Buzz

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

As the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, an uplifting and inspiring picture book has been released that traces the journey of a tattered and torn American flag from ground zero whose restoration embodied the diversity, resilience, hope, and unity of a nation.

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag


Author: Amanda Davis


Illustrator: Sally Wern Comport


Publisher: Worthy Kids (2021)


Ages:


Nonfiction


Themes:

Uniting a community, healing, resilience, hope, and repairing our nation's flag.


Synopsis:

Discover the inspiring story of the American flag that flew over Ground Zero, traveled across all fifty states as it was repaired, and returned to New York as a restored symbol of unity.


In the days following September 11th, a 30-foot American flag hung torn and tattered at 90 West Street, across from Ground Zero. A few weeks later, the flag was taken down by a construction crew and tucked away in storage, where it stayed for nearly seven years.


The flag was brought out of storage in 2008 when the New York Says Thank You Foundation headed to Greensburg, Kansas, a town nearly destroyed by a tornado. NYSTY brought the flag with them, sparking a grassroots restoration effort that traveled over 120,000 miles across all fifty states, bringing together thousands of people, and helping America heal and rebuild . . . hand by hand, thread by thread, one stitch at a time.


This book is the story of that journey, a journey that ended at the opening of the National September 11 Museum, where the flag remains today. Along the way, the flag was restored using pieces of retired flags from every state—including a piece of the flag that Abraham Lincoln was laid on after he was shot at Ford's Theater and threads from the original Star-Spangled Banner flag, which flew at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. The pieces and threads were stitched in by military veterans, first responders, educators, students, community-service heroes, and family members of 9/11 victims, among others. At each stop, communities came together to remember, to heal, and to unite.


Opening Lines:

On September 11, 2001, New York City was attacked.

Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center.

The twin towers collapsed, and thousands of

people lost their lives,


It was a tragic day in America's history.


What I LIKED about this book:

Sally Wern Comport's illustrations are eye-catching, poignant, and unusual. Her collage style allows her to incorporate newspaper headlines and snippets of stories into the illustrations.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2021. Image © Sally Wern Comport, 2021.


And create compelling compositions that resemble the patchwork and hand-stitched edging in the restoration of the flag. These two images are such a small taste of this perfect design choice, where grey and black toned images (with color only on the helpers and the flag), slowly evolve into a beautiful array of bright colors as citizens around the nation repair the flag. I hope you get a chance to spend time with these illustrations. I keep finding something new every time I look at them - like the landmarks subtly layered within this image.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2021. Image © Sally Wern Comport, 2021.


The ending of Amanda Davis' author note - "we are the fabric of America" - beautifully summarizes the wonderfully ingenious thread that Amanda and Sally wove throughout the book. Using a touching refrain, Amanda follows the flag's progress by altering the last word - "The fabric of America remained/The fabric of America waited/The fabric of America emerged." Each one is beautifully printed onto what looks like a scrap of fabric. Until the very end when the sentence is on the flag itself.


Although it begins with the tragedy of 9/11 and the devastating tornado of Greenburg, Kansas, the story of the flag's journey across the 50 states and loving restoration by citizens - from kids to seniors, teachers to veterans, and every career imaginable - is a story full of hope, resilience, kindness, compassion, and unity. A story that follows each new stich as it tied together the country's struggles and hopes from Pearl Harbor to the Kennedy Space Center, Fort Hood, Texas to the Navajo Nation. A celebration of "crisscrossing borders, cross-stitching lives" and a reminder that together, united, we can survive. A message definitely needed in these divisive and isolating times.


Detailed back matter offers additional information about the flag, its journey, the restoration process, an author's note, and sources. This is a wonderful book that acknowledges not just the tragedy and heroes of 9/11, but other tragedies and heroes throughout our nation's history and celebrates the thread of compassion and resilience that unites us as a nation. It's both sobering and inspiring. A book that belongs in every library.


Resources:

- make a safety-pin American flag (http://www.funholidaycrafts.com/4th-of-july-crafts/patriotic-pin-craft/).

- create your own patchwork American (or other) flag from paper or fabric.

- check out Amanda's book launch (here).

- using collage, create an image, or write a story or a list, of who or what has given you hope or helped you during this past year.

- for another picture book about resilience and uniting to help, read Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman (a fireboat that helped on 9/11).


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Amanda Davis (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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