Ain’t burned all the bright by Jason Reynolds with artwork by Jason Griffin. Profound YA book that captures what it is like to be black in America. Stunning, powerful and simply unique @JasonReynolds83

Posted: April 10, 2022 in Secondary
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Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now.

Ain’t burned all the bright

By Jason Reynolds

Artwork by Jason Griffin

ISBN 9781534439467

Simonandschuster Teen

What an amazing book! At over 350 pages long, there are only a handful of run-on sentences making it a quick read. However, the words are profound. Their message even more so. I preordered this from my local library and was pretty much first in line. I have read this a number of times already and I keep finding something new. Some new symbolic meaning I didn’t quite connect the first time. I am going to have to purchase my own copy just so I can keep rereading.

Broken into three parts, written as if in a notebook, and illustrated profusely throughout, this book is stunning, both visually and textually.

The first part uses subtle and not so subtle references and images to African Americans and the number of cases where police arrests have resulted in physical restraints where people were unable to breathe. It references the struggles of being, young and black in a world where the freedom to belong, to breath, seems to be different to non-blacks. Police riots, red flames imagery symbolically showing flames of fury. It is powerful and haunting.

The second part is about the struggle with Covid-19 and the ability to breathe with the illness, with and without masks. A father is separated from his family through a bedroom wall; he is coughing and spluttering, trying to breathe. One son, continues to play games on his screen, a sister chats with friends via her phone screen. The mother barely turns her head from the tv screen and all the news; Covid-19, American riots, murders and beatings of black folk. The opening page of the book is a screen door. Screens keeping things in, keeping things out and everyone just trying to breath in between.

The third part to me, is hopeful. It’s about everyone breathing the same air, the same hopes and dreams and most importantly having family to care for, to love and be loved back. If everyone takes the time to share and care, there is room enough for everyone to breathe easy.

The book is poetical, in a found poetry kind of way. Like Jason Reynold’s book Long way down, words matter, repetitions are deliberate. He thinks about every word choice and the result is first class.

Jason Griffin’s art work is equally profound. Images are provocative and haunting. You just know he has thought about every word before he has created his images. A real and rare partnership of author and illustrator.

Love, love, love this amazing book. High school libraries need to add this to their collections.

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