Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WORLDS AFIRE by Paul B. Janeczko


by Paul B. Janeczko

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-7636-2235-4
Publisher: Candlewick

In 29 taut, free-verse poems, Janeczko describes the Barnum & Bailey Circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1944, this catastrophe killed 167 people and injured over 500 others. Three parts anticipate the performance, describe the fire, and recount its aftermath. Each poem features a different person and provides a specific point of view of the calamity. This device has its strengths (creation of plot tension, accurate depiction of WWII Hartford, and the texture of daily life) and weaknesses (lack of cohesiveness and character detail). Each voice is distinct: in toto, they convey the horror of the event, while moving the reader’s attention forward. As in several YA novels published recently, adult voices predominate. This will not discourage YA readers and it increases the amount of factual information in the poems. Just as Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology described a midwestern town through the voices of its dead, this work creates an overview of a community in tragedy rather than a fictional whole. A rich, challenging poetry experience. (Poetry. YA)