The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi | SLJ Review

redstarRINALDI, Tom. The Red Bandanna. 176p. bibliog. photos. Viking. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780425287620.

Gr 6-8 –Before leaving for church one day, Jeff Crowther gave his then seven-year-old son, Welles, a red bandanna to keep in his pocket, similar to his own blue bandanna. For the rest of Welles’s life, that red piece of fabric remained a constant reminder of his special bond with his father while also serving a variety of practical purposes—a handkerchief, a headband worn underneath a hockey helmet, and eventually a useful piece of life-saving equipment. Welles was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by a plane on the morning of September 11, 2001. Physically unharmed and able to escape, altruistic Welles chose instead to assist an estimated 18 people to safety using his junior firefighter training. To those he helped that day, he was known only as the man with the red bandanna, until, through newspaper reports from eyewitness accounts, his family was able to piece together his final moments of self-sacrifice and courage. At times a documentation of history, at others an emotional journey, this remarkable true story of bravery and heroism places readers directly inside the South Tower as events unfolded; Rinaldi’s writing heightens the senses capturing the smoke, heat, and smells, while also making the uncertainty, confusion, urgency, and raw human emotion very real—a feat not often accomplished in books for this age group. Drawing upon firsthand accounts from family members and friends, readers receive a sense of Welles’s optimism, leadership, perseverance, and his genuine desire to help others. VERDICT Impossible to read without an emotional response, this title is an essential purchase for nonfiction collections.–Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

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