On July 6, 1944 the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was playing in a huge tent in Hartford, Connecticut. A small fire jumped to the tent, waterproofed with many layers of paraffin and gasoline. The entire performance area burnt in minutes, killing 167 people and injuring hundreds more. There have been novels and non-fiction books written about this disaster, but Janeczko is going for something more intimate. He has told the story in blank verse poems, from the points of view of the circus crew, the audience members, and the rescue workers. It is interesting how a few well-chosen words in only 92 pages can convey the excitement of the circus, the horror of the event, and the shock of the survivors.

Each poem is a brief, first-person story, perfectly focused on some point that allows you to piece together the day. You feel like you are looking through someone else’s eyes. Very well done.

IndyPL_SteveB's rating:
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