I confess I wasn’t sure what to think of Worlds Afire, a book written in verse about a horrific 1944 circus fire, but I tucked it in my bag as I headed off to chaperone a school trip. On the way home, on a noisy bus, I pulled it out and began reading. It wasn’t long before the voices around me were replaced with the voices of long-ago Hartford, Connecticut. Poet Paul Jameczko brings to life the people of that tragic day. His haunting poems of children, animal trainers, parents, policemen, and numerous others grab the reader and tear at the heart. We feel their desperation and their fear as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus big top, waterproofed with paraffin and gasoline (“like one huge candle/ just waiting for a light”) ignites. In a matter of minutes, 167 people are dead and another 500 are injured. This brief book is intense and can only be compared to Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. It is no wonder Worlds Afire has been recognized as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age.