Ain’t Burned All the Bright

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. Jan. 2022. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534439467.
Gr 7 Up–Reynolds’s breathtakingly poetic prose melds seamlessly with Griffin’s effective multimedia images to capture a story of our time that should be read by everybody. Written in just a few lengthy sentences over the space of a few hundred pages of artwork, the book follows a Black family during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The family’s young protagonist captures the very real confusion and fear of 2020 in two interwoven narratives: his family’s experience with the pandemic, including his father’s battle with COVID-19, and his reaction to the persistent violence and systemic racism on the news. Reynolds has the talent of conveying so much in very few words, and along with Griffin’s stunning images of fire throughout the book, powerfully conveys the overall theme of oxygen and being unable to breathe. The reminder to breathe in and breathe out throughout carries so much weight as memories from early 2020 resurface, from patients in hospital beds fighting for a good breath to pleading for one breath while under the weight of police to watching the news with the feelings of helplessness and suffocation. Although reminiscent of heartbreaking and tumultuous times, this novel is permeated with so much comfort and hope as it leaves readers with the solace that togetherness brings.
VERDICT For everyone who has felt the weight of grief and fear or the comfort of love and family in the last two years, this is a must read.

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