Ain’t Burned All the Bright

Ain't Burned All the Bright cover
Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds. Illustrated by Jason Griffin

By Jason Reynolds
Illustrated by Jason Griffin
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2022
384 pages

Age 12 and older

A singular verse novel set across a series of moments and minutes on a day in the summer of 2020 is comprised of three sentences, three “Breaths,” sharply observed and deeply felt, set against sophisticated collage illustrations. In Breath One, the young Black male narrator is feeling overwhelmed and isolated. The TV news tells stories of “another woman … another man … another kid my age…” while each member of his family is preoccupied and the boy wonders if anyone who looks like him can live and breathe freely. In Breath Two, the boy worries about his dad, fevered and coughing in the next room, while his dad tries to reassure him he’ll be alright. In Breath Three, “it feels like I’m the only person who can tell we’re all suffocating…” until a TV commercial makes just the hint of a laugh rise in his mother “…and in that moment I realized … that maybe the oxygen mask was hidden on the hinges of my mother’s mouth … or in my brother’s PEW PEW sound effects or in my sister’s loopy handwriting or in my father’s relentless shoulders…” The remarkable observation of this quiet, monumental shift in perception is light seeping in; the boy feels a renewed hope in connection to and appreciation for his family members and their strength. Each page spread is composed of a handful of words set against the mixed-media illustrations, with myriad opportunities for meaning-making in the words, images, and the relationship between them. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center