Oskar, the main narrator of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Houghton Mifflin), is a precocious nine-year-old who dreams up things like a tea kettle that reads in his father’s voice instead of whistling, and a skyscraper that moves up and down while the elevator stays in place—all to keep himself from thinking about the “worst day,” September 11, when his father was caught in the World Trade Center and Oskar came home to an empty apartment and a blinking answering machine. Oskar’s grand-father lost the woman he loved in the fire-bombing of Dresden during the Second World War; then he lost the power to speak. He had the word yes tattooed on his left hand and no on his right hand, and he wrote the things he couldn’t say in a notebook that he carried with him. Oskar deals with the loss of his father by wearing only white clothing and shaking a tambourine as he visits each person listed in the New York phone book who has the surname “Black” and who might know something about a key labelled with the word black that Oskar found among his father’s things. This book is sad and poignant, but it’s funny and quirky, too. Even if you’ve promised yourself not to read books about 9/11, you should read this one, more than once.