cover image Ain’t Burned All the Bright

Ain’t Burned All the Bright

Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3946-7

Author Reynolds and artist Griffin, friends and previous collaborators (My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.), explore recent events in America through a poetic multimedia partnership told in three “breaths.” As a journal-like volume opens, a nameless Black narrator takes readers into their thoughts with what becomes a variable refrain, wondering “why/ my mother won’t change the channel// and why the news won’t/ change the story// and why the story won’t/ change into something new.” Spare lines that emphasize the weight of recurrence also describe the figure’s sister planning to attend a protest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, their brother’s attention indivertibly set on a video game, their father’s violent coughs, and the frustration of “how we won’t cure the sick/ because we won’t wear a mask/ and wash our hands.” The combination of experiences sends the narrator into a spiral, hoping to catch a breath (“I should be.../ looking for an oxygen mask”), then eventually toward succor within the actions and personality of family (“Maybe that oxygen mask/ was hidden on the hinges/ of my mother’s mouth”). As Reynolds’s lines depict Black people facing police brutality, Covid-19, and general concerns regarding safety, Griffin’s captivating collages literally and metaphorically capture a constant state of worry and panic, leading to visual moments that encourage the reader to find solace and inspiration in the everyday. An interview between the creators concludes. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)