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Worlds Afire Hardcover – February 2, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up-A riveting account of a horrific event that killed 167 people, mostly women and children, and injured 500. In a collection of narrative poems, Janeczko describes a circus fire that took place on July 6, 1944 in Hartford, CT, from the viewpoints of those who were there. The event's horror leaps vividly from each poem. The brief book is divided into three parts-a sort of introduction, the fire itself, and the aftermath as people tried to understand what went wrong. Readers hear from police officers, and many circus people, as well as the 13-year-old girl whose friends were lucky enough to go to the circus while she had to stay home. The voices lend immediacy to the story and enhance the sense of tragedy. This is a memorable historical fiction selection, similar in intensity to Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (1997) and Witness (2001, both Scholastic).-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-8. Based on a real circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1944 that killed 167 in a few minutes and injured more than 500, Janeczko's spare poetic novel describes the events in the voices of 29 eyewitnesses: children and adults in the audience, circus folk, and townspeople. First, there's the excitement before the show, then the horror of the sudden wild flames and screaming panic, and finally the "shuffling and sobbing" of families in grief. Many voices sound too much the same; but the words are plain, with short lines that are very easy to read, and the stories they tell are unforgettable. A child escapes, but watches her mother and brother "swept away by the rush." A young trainer saves the elephants ("the herd lined up / tail-to trunk / just like they'd been taught"). A firefighter explains that the canvas tent was waterproofed with paraffin and gasoline ("one huge candle / just waiting for a light"). Janeczko never sensationalizes the horror, but the combination of a thrilling circus and true catastrophe will grab middle-schoolers, especially for readers' theater. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (February 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763622354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763622350
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,199,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Rada on May 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The book Worlds Afire is the best drama book I have ever read but since I'm only 13 I'm sure that there is a lot more better drama books out there I just haven't heard of yet. This book is about "a circus gone bad" as I would say. It is also a true story that is going to haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. That's how good of a picture the book draws for you as you read. As your reading you can just see all the people dying in the torturous flames of the Hartford fire. The book takes place during the circus act of the tigers. The worst thing about the fire is that there is only one escape for all those people to get out of and barely half of them did. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone shape, color or size.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on January 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Paul Janeczko's collection of poems tells the story of the infamous Hartford Circus fire of 1944. From the gradual points of view of performers, parents and anxoius children, Janeczko leads his readers through the excitement of the Big Top event, to the horror and tragedy of the fire. From parents, freaks and photographers, the reader is lead through the terror and confusion of the fire and the anguish of the hospital afterward. The best poem in my opinion was not saved for last. The touching point of view of sally Weissman, the nurse attending the emergency room to which so many victems were rushed is this books most powerful moment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neodoering on November 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
This collection of poems horrified and startled me with its moving images of a big top fire that killed hundreds of people and injured half a thousand more. I was amazed at how fast this collection read, I devoured the whole thing in forty-five minutes. Janeczko grabs you from the first word and pulls you through the story of the circus fire by telling it from the point of view of various people who were at the event. Some of the speakers will live, some will die, some spit out their last words at the end of their poems. Janeczko really gets you to feel the terror of the people fleeing the burning tent and feel for the victims, mainly women and children who were at the circus while their men were away fighting world war II. There are poems by animal trainers trying to get their charges to safety and poems by the police detectives trying to determine who lit the fire. These are sorrowful poems of a disaster one hopes will never happen again. I was amazed that the circus people waterproofed the big top with a combination of paraffin and gasoline, seems like anyone could see that was a nightmare waiting to happen. They never did catch the person who lit the fire, though a mentally ill man claimed credit. His account wasn't believed, though, and in the end the authorities were obliged to let it go, the truth just another sad casualty of that miserable day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This story is about terror and heros it is also about history and drama. This book was not the best book i have read but it kept me entertaind.
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