Worlds Afire

Worlds Afire

by Paul B. Janeczko


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"Riveting. . . . A memorable historical fiction selection, similar in intensity to Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust and Witness." — School Library Journal (starred review)

One summer afternoon in 1944, hundreds of circus lovers crowded under the big top in Hartford, waiting for the show to begin. Minutes later, a fire broke out and spread through the tent, claiming the lives of 167 souls and injuring some 500 more. Paul B. Janeczko recalls that tragic event by bringing to life some unforgettable voices — from circus performers to seasoned fans, from firefighters to ushers. Using the lyrical power of language to render tragedy with a human face, this spare, startling book in verse leaves an emotional impact young readers will not soon forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763634001
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 03/27/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 1,180,955
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.31(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Paul B. Janeczko (1945–2019) was a poet and teacher who edited numerous award-winning poetry anthologies for young people, including A Poke in the I, A Kick in the Head, A Foot in the Mouth, and The Death of the Hat, all of which were illustrated by Chris Raschka; Firefly July, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; and The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems, illustrated by Richard Jones. He also wrote Worlds Afire; Requiem: Poems of the Terezín Ghetto; Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing; Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War; The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to CIA Moles, a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults; and Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis.

Read an Excerpt

We laid nine hundred feet of hose

then another hundred and a half.

About a ton of hose.

But we all knew

we were too late.

There was no tent

just folding chairs

and bleachers blazing

like nobody's business.

Too hot to get close.

See, they dip

their chairs in paint

and hang them up to dry,

so as the years pass

they're adding another layer of paint

eager to burn.

But that's not half the problem

of the tent itself.

To keep the rain out

they coat the canvas

with paraffin mixed with gasoline,

laid on good and thick with stiff brooms.

Oh, that waterproofs it all right—

been doing it that way for years—

but what does it give you?

One huge candle

just waiting for a light.

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