Friday, May 5, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: Requiem by Paul Janeczko

Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto
by Paul Janeczko

Janeczko, Paul. Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto. New York: Candlewick Press, 2011. Print.

Poetic Elements: This book is a bit different than others of its kind. While all of the poems are written by the same person, in this case Paul Janeczko, they are each in the voice of a different character, which seems to add a lot of dimension to the overall story. The poetic elements vary depending on the specific poem. There are some pages where the elements are lacking, and one of the only ways one would know it was a poem was to see the format as it is written in stanza(s). On the other hand, there are pages that are chalk full of different elements from rhyme, line spacing, addition punctuation, and figurative language. It seems good to have a mix of the two as this way it does not seem to take away from the overall story, which should be the main focus in a book over such topics.

Appeal: The overall appeal of this book will depend a lot on each individual reader. As someone who enjoys reading books set in the time of World War II and is always curious to learn more about things that occurred in that point, I was drawn to this book as I looked through the list. Those that are not a fan of this time period or event, or that do not like raw, emotional texts may not be as inclined to pick up this book of poems after reading through the synopsis. The synopsis is well written, though, and the description of the importance of art and music could draw in more readers. The simple black-and-white illustrations are a great addition that may draw in readers who enjoy illustrations mixed in with their poetry.

Overall Quality: As far as quality goes, this book is fairly well done. There are some things that could be improved, but others may feel much differently about the book. That seems to be the thing about poetry, everyone views them differently. On the one hand, I enjoy how each poem is in the voice and tone of a different individual. It gives a large picture of what is going on in the Terezin Ghetto, looking at both Jewish citizens and Nazis standing guard there. On the other hand, this constant switching of characters makes it more difficult to sympathize and get to know any specific characters. While we may not be able to relate to the awful situation involved, there may be a quality of a certain character that we could understand, but we do not get enough of any one character to develop these feelings.

The Poets: Paul Janeczko is the sole poet of this book, and it does seem pretty obvious that this is the case. While the book is made up of many different voices, the writing style stays pretty consistent throughout the entirety of the novel. Janeczko seems to be pretty familiar and popular in the poetry realm, and I had even heard his name before this module, which says something as I am not up-to-date on my poets. From glancing at other books by him, it seems like his writing style remains consistent through the different stories.

Layout: The layout of the book seems similar to most prose novels that one would read. It contains a lovely cover picture with a synopsis on the inside jacket flap in order to draw in readers. It contains a Table of Contents that could very easily be chapters instead of titles, as in this case. From that point forward, there are not very many intriguing things about the layout. The poems follow one after another throughout the text, occasionally broken up by a black-and-white drawing to illustrate things being written about at that point. The layout is clean, but not necessarily eye-catching.

Spotlight Poem: 

Margit Zadok/13597

Papa didn't move.
He stood in the street
still as a lamppost
eyes locked on the nightmare
that had been his shop.
Windows smashed,
scattered glass winking in the sun,
the bottom half of his sign
Rosenberg's Fine Linens of Prague
blackened, burned. 
Delicate handkerchiefs 
now fallen white leaves.
Papa bowed his head
in prayer
or in despair--
I couldn't tell.
A white linen tablecloth 
edged with pink roses--
Mama's favorite pattern--
flowed like a bride's train
from sidewalk to curb to gutter.
Papa stared at black boot marks
crossing it like sins.
A man and a woman walked from the shop
arms filled with linens. 
"You!" Papa shouted. 
"You cannot steal from me!"
The woman looked away.
The man smiled at Papa's rage.
"Know your place, Jew," the man snarled. 
"Know your place."
As they walked off,
a napkin dropped from the woman's arms
falling to the ground
as noiselessly as snow. 

This poem is the first one in the book, and I think that it is a strong one. This book overall would be great to use during a Holocaust unit for young adults, but this poem alone could stand to give a view of how things were at this particular time in history. There is a large amount of figurative language and imagery provided in this poem, so I would have my students read with those things in mind. They would then identify and illustrate these examples, before explaining what they mean and why the author would include them.

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