Review of Ain’t Burned All the Bright, by Jason Reynolds, artwork by Jason Griffin

Ain’t Burned All the Bright

by Jason Reynolds
artwork by Jason Griffin
read by Jason Reynolds and a full cast

Atheneum, 2022. 384 pages.
Audiobook: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2022. 30 minutes.
Review written April 12, 2022, from a library book and eaudiobook.
Starred Review

Ain’t Burned All the Bright is an illustrated poem about a kid and his family at home during the pandemic. That doesn’t sound very exciting — but the poet is Jason Reynolds. And his long-time friend Jason Griffin did 384 pages of art to go with it.

I put a hold on the audiobook before I realized it was an illustrated poem and not a novel. And decided that both listening to the audiobook and looking at the artwork was the perfect way to experience this book.

The audiobook performs the text twice — first with Jason Reynolds reading it, then with a full cast. And then there’s a discussion between the creators at the end (which is also printed in the book). The whole thing only takes 30 minutes, so this is a quick read, but has lovely play with images and language.

Jason Reynolds said this book began thinking about oxygen masks. The way he plays with that image is surprising and lovely.

We’ve got a kid wondering why his mother doesn’t change the channel, a brother playing video games, a sister talking on her phone, and a father ill in his bedroom. And the kid has thoughts about it all.

I’m not even sure how to describe this book. But it’s Jason Reynolds’ poetry along with striking images, and I would really like to talk with a kid who reads this book to find out all the things they notice that I miss. It feels like there’s more than meets the eye here. But I do know I like it.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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