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  • Worlds Afire
  • Written by Paul B. Janeczko
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780763634001
  • Our Price: $7.99
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Worlds Afire

Written by Paul B. JaneczkoAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works 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 firefi ghters 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.


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.

From the Hardcover edition.


"A searing account . . . that readers will not easily forget." — Karen Hesse

From the Hardcover edition.

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