by Paul B. Janeczko (Candlewick Press, 2011, 102 pp)
There’s a special place in my heart for this book. Perhaps it’s because I had just been in the Czech Republic and had personally visited Terezín and interviewed two survivors in my Jewish Studies class as part of the Western Michigan University Prague Summer Program.
But I also think there’s a special place, because the poetry was so rich and I am a huge fan of verse. As I was reading, I constantly said to myself, “This is so good!” I even wrote the author an email telling him how much I liked the book.
The Good Stuff
- Multiple perspectives on Terezín given with differentiating poetic form — Deliberate thought was given to each poem, dictating not only its content but also its style. The variety of poetic form, though each is free verse, informs and shapes experience. Horrific experiences communicated through poetry can be most effective, as it is here.
- Well researched — The detail lets the reader know Janeczko did his homework.
- Illustration — The Terezín Ghetto sparked an amazing amount of artwork. Its inclusion here was a brilliant move.
- Author’s Note — I always like an Author’s Note. I wanted to know what compelled Janeczko to write this book and I was happy to learn that he had personally visited the site.
- Art Credits — Good to know where the artwork came from and how extensive the research and permissions were. This shows commitment on the part of the author and the editor/publisher.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
- Subtitle — Poems of the Terezín Ghetto implies the poems came from there — and poems were indeed written there — gives a false impression
- Resources — Would have liked a more expansive list of resources, including recordings of the children’s opera, Brundibár. Also, would have liked a mention that Brundibár means bumblebee.
- Foreign word check — Some German words were not correct (e.g., Judisches Ansiedlung vs. Jüdische Ansiedlung). Also, in Czech, — it’s Bedřich not Bedrich — it’s a whole different sound. (I have brought these foreign word faux pax to Candlewick’s attention — once a copy editor, always a copy editor.)
- Missed opportunity for endorsement — Would have liked to see a blurb from or a mention of the Jewish Federation of the Czech Republic to show endorsement
- Missed opportunity for vetting
5.0 out of 5.0