Worlds Afire
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Worlds Afire

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In his first full-length poetic work, celebrated poetry anthologist Paul B. Janeczko creates a stirring fictional account of the 1944 Hartford circus fire.

One summer afternoon in 1944, hundreds of circus lovers crowded under the big top in Hartford, Connecticut, breathlessly waiting for the show to begin. Minutes later, the event took a horrifying turn when a fire broke ou...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published February 2nd 2004 by Candlewick
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Jessica Mcclelland
Name: Jessica McClelland

APA citation: Janeczko, P(2004). Worlds afire. Candlewick: NY.

Genre: Poetry

Award (if applicable):

Format: Book

Selection process: This book is favored in Booklist. Rochman, Hazel. 2004. Worlds Afire. Booklist 100, no. 9/10: 857.

Review: Worlds Afire does its best to tell the true tale of the 1944 Connecticut circus fire that claimed many lives in a poetic and tragically beautiful way. The book is divided into three parts, the excitement before, the terror of the fire and the...more
William Herschel
On Thursday, July 6, 1944, as the afternoon performance of the Ringling bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, had just begun, fire broke out in the southwest corner of the big top. The fire was fast and angry, killing 167 people-- mostly women and children-- in a matter of minutes and injuring about 500 others.

It's been awhile since I've been to a circus. My only memory of going as a child is being uncomfortably squished with crowds of people, and me looking down at the...more
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Cheryl in CC NV
Blank verse. Not many of the voices actually sounded like their 'characters' but, nonetheless, a powerful way to share an historical event. Quick read. Would be excellent for classroom use for ages 10-14, especially.
Emilie W
A book of historical fiction retelling the horror of a circus fire in Harford Connecticut, July 6, 1944, where according to Jeneczko "167 people were killed and more than 500 injured." The poems were in short, powerful free verse. This book took probably half and hour to read, so length and content make it doable for middle school age and above. It is separated into three parts depicting the time beforehand, throughout, and after the fire, and the characters come from assorted backgrounds which...more
Svetlana Goncharoff
Book Talk – Worlds Afire

Most of the spectators came of free will. Willard Owens came on July 6th, 1944 because he had not missed a circus in forty-two years, and living just across Barbour Street, he had no excuse to miss this one. Donald Hutchinson, still a boy, came as a treasure-hunter hoping to find some great wealth under the bleachers collecting what fell from people's pockets sitting up above. What he found was fear, and not only his own. Harry King came to take his mind off things, but e...more
This collection of haunting poems focuses on the story behind the Hartford, Connecticut circus fire of 1944, and each poem represents the perspective of a different bystander's account of that night. These accounts come from a wide variety of sources, from the man who prepared the lot for the circus to arrive, to a nurse at the hospital who treated many of the burn victims afterward. The voices aren't as individualized as one might like them to be, but Janeczko's clipped delivery creates a power...more
Linda Lipko
167 people perished July 6, 1944 when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus tent became a fast, searing inferno wherein the people of Harford, Ct were forever changed.

Told in a series of poems, excellently written, the author writes from the perspective of young and old. Heartbreaking, insightful and well worth the time spent in reading.
This book really highlights the horror and the tragedy that struck this town and how it affected the people that lived there because so many people died many children where orphaned and they had to get a new family... A real tragedy and would recommend it to anyone who would read it.
On July 6, 1944, a fire at a circus in Hartford, Connecticut killed 167 people. Here Janeczko, in a series of poems told from the point of view of different people involved in that fire (children, parents, detectives, etc.) shows the anticipation of the circus, the horror of the fire, and the aftermath of it.

Although this book is short, it is powerful. I'd never heard anything about this tragedy, but I appreciated the way Janeczko could provide so much information in so few words. A bibliography...more
While the book was well written and interesting, the subject matter is really disturbing. I'm always on the side of giving kids edgy material, and not sugar-coating anything, and yet... well, it's just hard for me to imagine exactly which kid I'd recommend this to. I can't hear myself saying, "Here's a great book ... everyone gets trapped under the big top in a circus fire and burns to death." Certainly, there are kids who are fascinated by disasters, and how people react to them, and Janeczko t...more
Zach Naegele
This book of poetry includes poems of different people’s responses of a trip to the circus. The poems tell a story and as it continues it covers a tragedy that occurred in Hartford, Connecticut in 1944. The poems start out positive and exciting, focused only on the magic of the circus. Then the poems develop to explain how the different attendees react as a fire breaks out that sets the circus tent ablaze. From this fire 167 people die and over 500 are injured. The ending poems include accounts...more
Written in poems, each as a first person account from a variety of those who went to the circus, worked at the circus, or helped those injured or killed by the great fire under the 'big top' on a hot July day in 1944 in Hartford, CT. As men were off at war in France, most of the victims were moms and young children, with 167 killed and over 500 injured. This little book will have a reader holding his or her breath until the final page.
In speech and debate in high school I did this as a poetry piece. One judge was offended I didn't focus more on the fire. But I was so deeply touched by the little blonde girl without a small burn on her ankle I felt it was the survivors story which needed to be told. Those who we're left and did survive. I wish I could have known some of the fathers stories. How it was for them to return from the war to find family dead.
Jul 07, 2010 Ayanna is currently reading it
Worlds Afire was about how a group called Harry King was at war. They started a circus call "Big Top". Some people that tryed to make and be in the performance didnt surivive. The Carnvas Tent that they performed in was covered with gasline and ready to be lit. On the day of july 1944 a terriable fire broke down. But the people that did it was nevered found.
Allie Brown
This is a really great poetry book foe all ages. It follows the events of a circus fire in the 1910's. The poetry begins before the fire, during the fire and ends after the fire. It tells the event from the different perspectives of various people. I think it is a fantastic "gateway" book for those who are not interested in poetry.
Very good verse poetry book. It is a very quick read at 90 pages. This is based on the true story of a circus fire that happened in Hartford, CT in 1945. It is written from the perspective of the people that perished and the survivors of the fire.

The true story of a terrible fire at a traveling circus. The novel in verse has many different perspectives of the event, told through several fictional characters. THe structure is similar to another favorite book of mine, Karen Hesse's Witness.
Verse poetry and non-fiction: It is a very quick read at 90 pages. This is based on the true story of a circus fire that occurred in Hartford, CT in 1945. It is written from the perspectives of those that perished and the survivors of the fire.
After reading 'Water for Elephants', I discovered there are not a lot books about the circus in my library. This one, a set of poems over the 1944 Hartford Ringling Bros. fire, was an interesting yet sad read. At under 100 pages, it's an easy read.
This book really does give life to the victims of this fire. Creating poetry was an interesting way to introduce to these people. I loved the emotion and I am glad that I was able to learn about this incredible event from the past.
Sep 15, 2008 Kristy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kristy by: Teens who aren't into history
Verse Novel about the 1944 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Fire in Hartford. Tragic, insightful and deftly unveils an event that was significant, but has fallen off the historical radar (unless you live in Hartford perhaps).
Laura Leonard
Powerful, free-verse poems tell of the tragic circus fire which occurred in Hartfod, CT in July 6, 1944 killing 167 people and injurying many more. A skillfully crafted book about a little known event in Americnan history.
I thought this book would be great. I had high expectations. It just disappointed. I'm not sure if the detail was missing because of the use of poetry. I just felt like there should have boon more!
Maggi Idzikowski
Packs a punch in a short novel. My fifth graders were a little overwhelmed by it, but they were also fascinated. There's a web site all about the fire:
This was something of a disappointment. After waiting to get my hands on a copy, I was hoping for more backstory...

Slightly on the simplistic side.
WOW! It only took me about 45 minutes to read the whole book of poetry. I coach oral interp, and I am going to try to use this for the upcoming season!
Something new to learn about. I liked the presentation of the different people affected by the fire.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Poems based on the circus fire in Connecticut in 1944. Pair this with Stewart O'Nan's The Circus Fire.
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Paul B. Janeczko is a poet and teacher and has edited more than twenty award-winning poetry anthologies for young people, including STONE BENCH IN AN EMPTY PARK, LOOKING FOR YOUR NAME, SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN, and A POKE IN THE I, which was an American Library Association Notable Book.
More about Paul B. Janeczko...
A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems Firefly July A Year of Very Short Poems The Dark Game: True Spy Stories from Invisible Ink to CIA Moles Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto

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