Review Blog

Jan 09 2012

Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko

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Candlewick Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780763647278.
Fragments of lives and snippets of personal recollections, told by the imagined voices of the inmates of the Terezin Ghetto, a prison camp in what is now the Czech Republic, depict the horror of the existence of those sentenced to death. Whilst on the surface, music and the arts apparently abound, all is not as it seems. Copious amounts of propaganda is distributed by the soldiers and those in charge of the 'ovens of Auschwitz', and glossed over as being commonplace and the accepted modus operandi in keeping the rest of the world ignorant of the facts of the death camps. The book's textured jacket depicts the silhouette of a featureless group of people, hands joined, standing in front of a red-toned building. Inside, the jacket information states that the book is 'Accented with historic illustrations by the inmates, found after the war ended'. These dark images provide a backdrop to the sparsely worded poems. Each of these elements combines to create a powerful collection of poetry.
Janeczko's numerous poetry collections are varied, ranging from the simplistic form poetry appropriate for younger children to this evocative, powerful, moving collection aimed at adults and students in secondary school. From this slim and elegant volume, certain poems could also be chosen to use in war units as discussion starters with upper primary students. This title will also be a valuable resource for year 10 teachers, particularly in light of the new National Curriculum and its World War 2 focus, a collection to read and re-read.
Jo Schenkel

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