Worlds Afire

Worlds Afire

(Sorry, I don’t have first lines for this one. It’s a book told in poetry form.)

For many years (*cough* eleven of them *cough*), this book was on my to-read shelf on Goodreads. I’m super interested in random, weird bits of history and this, about the Hartford circus fire that absolutely changed circuses forever after that, was certainly on my radar. But I just never got around to it until I specifically put it on hold at the library. Twice. (Once, I never went to pick it up…)

It’s summer 1944 and World War II has been on everyone’s minds. So why not go to the circus and lift a few spirits? Hundreds are crammed under the Big Top, waiting for the show to begin. Minutes later, a fire breaks out and takes 167 lives and injuring 500 others. This lyrical story looks at the points of view of many people who were there, those who survived…and those who didn’t.

This lyrical story is super short (I think I read the whole thing in about 20-25 minutes at most) but each poem comes from a different person connected to the circus or the events. An elephant trainer, a “freak”, young children eager to see the Big Top show, parents, police, etc. Everyone has the chance to voice a little of what they saw and what happened. The story does get a bit…gory isn’t really the right word…disturbing, I guess. There are references to how unidentifiable some of the bodies are, but otherwise the story isn’t graphic about deaths or anything. It’s actually shelved in my library’s children’s section, not YA or anything. It’s meant for children, so it does stay away from the worst of all that.

It’s short, but it’s tragic and makes you really think about what it was like for those who were there.

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