In fall 2004, Farrar, Straus & Giroux published Jeanette Winter’s September Roses, that was inspired by the story of two South African women who arrived in New York City on September 11, 2011 with thousands of roses intended for an international flower show, which was cancelled after the terrorist attack. Given shelter by strangers, the women returned the kindness by arranging their roses in the shape of the twin towers as part of a memorial in Manhattan’s Union Square Park. Winter happened to visit that park and was so moved by the sight that she captured the experience in a handmade book that she never intended to publish, but was persuaded by a librarian at the New York Public Library to do so.
Since the original picture book was no longer in print as the 10th anniversary of the tragedy approached, the New York Council for the Humanities stepped in to fund a reissued edition of the book to use in its Community Conversations for Kids program, designed to facilitate discussions among children, based on short readings about current events, among children.
Two copies of the new edition of September Roses, a paperback redesigned with a slightly larger trim size than the original hardcover, are available free to any school or nonprofit organization in New York state that registers a Community Conversations for Kids event on the New York Council for the Humanities web site. Additional copies may be purchased on the site, and the book will eventually be available on Amazon, through Ingram and other distributors, and at the 9/11 Museum at Ground Zero.
The Web site also provides a downloadable toolkit to help schools and groups that partner with the Council to host Community Conversations for Kids (the organization also has similar programs for adults and young adults), three of which are being held this week in New York City.
Leading this week’s Conversations is Erika Halstead, the Council’s program officer, who reports that “the teachers were ecstatic that September Roses and the questions we provided let them talk to kids about this difficult subject in a thoughtful and meaningful way and give them an opportunity to continue the conversation in their classrooms.” Seventeen additional Community Conversations for Kids are scheduled to take place at various sites throughout New York State this month.
As a heartwarming postscript, Winter’s agent, Susan Cohen of Writers House, recently tracked down, through the sponsor of the international flower show they had attended, the two South African rose growers, Louise Scholtz and Ansie Stols, to tell them about September Roses, of which they were unaware, and its rebirth. The following day, Cohen received an e-mail from Scholtz, who wrote, “I cannot believe that a story was done about our roses!! We are grateful that someone that had the talent to do so could tell our story, and what a wonderful surprise to get to know this 10 years later! This news is amazing, and we are so looking forward to receiving copies of the book. It is such a privilege to be a part of this story.”