Ain’t Burned All the Bright | Jason Reynolds


Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, Illustrated by Jason Griffin

Out now from Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; 384 pages

Content Warnings: Death, illness

Author bio: “Jason Reynolds is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen
books for young people, including Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, All American
Boys, Long Way Down, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, and the upcoming Stuntboy,
in the Meantime. The recipient of a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, an NAACP Image Award,
and multiple Coretta Scott King honors, Reynolds is also the current National Ambassador for
Young People’s Literature. He lives in Washington, DC.” (Bio taken from author’s website.)

Find Jason Reynolds on the following platforms:

Illustrator bio: “Jason Griffin created the artwork for My Name Is Jason. Mine Too, written by
Jason Reynolds. He’s an artist and master collaborator, who has shown his art in major cities all
over the world. His most recent projects include a commissioned mural for the children’s cancer
wing at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, as well as a residency at the new contemporary art
museum in Amsterdam, Het HEM. He currently creates in Queens, New York.” (Bio taken from
Simon & Schuster.)

Find Jason Griffin on the following platforms:

“And it feels like I’m the only person who can tell we’re all suffocating…”

Jason Reynolds’s Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a poetic book written in a unique style where
three sentences are expanded across pages of illustrations created by Jason Griffin. The book
follows a child’s interpretation of the events unfolding in the pandemic while their father is ill. It
also covers their view of the protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while
watching the news with their brother, sister, mother, and father. The book is split into three parts,
or breaths, and Reynolds describes the book as three long sentences. The illustrations on each
page are mixed media and thematic. Within the span of three breaths and one afternoon of family
interaction in quarantine, the child learns how to find stability amidst the chaos of the pandemic
and societal turmoil.

Reynolds’s book is one that brought me to tears. It is honest and full of grief—even
heartbreaking at times. In the book, the anxiety of the pandemic is framed through childhood
innocence and lyrical narration. The narrator feels helpless and confused by events that are going
on in their life. They do not understand why their father is sick, why protests are happening, or
even why the news will not show anything other than the continued oppression of Black people.
Griffin’s illustrations are beautiful, emphasizing Reynolds’ word choice and highlighting the
narrator’s emotions. Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a convincing narrative that moves its audience
to empathize with the impact of life-changing events on children. It’s a fresh perspective that
allows us to see the world from an angle of innocence, so that maybe we will change what we
see on the news, too.

PRR Writer, Ami Jones