With the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks this year come new books that discuss the event or narrate an individual’s reaction. One of these is the graphic memoir Big Apple Diaries, written and illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez. Rewriting old diary pages from her early teenage years, along with additional information from friends, the author not only narrates her fears and anxieties that came about after the attacks, but the everyday struggles of any middle schooler. With the two intertwined, readers will find something familiar in her story.
Alyssa Bermudez finds comfort in drawing and writing in her diary. It certainly does help when she is dealing with the pressures of middle school, the constant traveling between her parents’ apartments across New York City, finding her cultural identity, and everything in between. But while preparing for the start of eighth grade, tragedy strikes. It’s September 11th, 2001 and the Twin Towers have collapsed. Everything changes for Alyssa and her home, but in the midst of disaster comes a bit of hope.
Bermudez’s memoir uses the journaling format that readers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries are familiar with, but her visuals and comic pages take up either a whole page or a two-page spread. She uses a blue-grayish color scheme with highlights to accentuate a character’s face or emotions. While most scenes depict Alyssa going about her day at school or at home, she also creates short comics depicting her interests at the time (music, trends, pop culture, etc.) and fantasies involving her crush or her anxieties. The text itself reads like a typical diary page, with a date written on top of the page and sometimes a departing salutation directed towards the book. Readers will sympathize with Alyssa and understand her fears and anxieties over school and home. Including 9/11 in her narrative gives readers a glimpse into a disaster that affected so many people, especially those who lived in New York City at the time. The author also includes an author note in the back of her book, including black and white photos of her younger days and a discussion of her creative process.
For fans of journal books and graphic memoirs, Big Apple Diaries is a great choice. Bermudez’s story not only reflects the aftermath of a national disaster, but the common struggles all middle schoolers go through. Public libraries should consider this book for their children’s and young adult collections. The same goes for school libraries, especially those who work with middle schoolers and junior high students.
Big Apple Diaries
By Alyssa Bermudez
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: American, Puerto Rican, Catholic