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In through the nose, out through the mouth

Cover of Ain't Burned All the Brigh
A review of Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

This book is described as a smash-up of art and text that captures 2020 and what it was like to be black during the COVID-19 lockdown and racial unrest and protests. It is incredible:  painful, powerful, and beautiful. Told in three sections called Breath One, Breath Two and Breath Three, I viewed the book as illustrated poetry with the parts representing the past, present and future.

A black family is inside their home and each family member lives life in their own way. The mom is trapped watching the news, unable to change the channel. The dad is sick in the bedroom coughing and coughing and coughing but is still present, supportive and loving, communicating with his kids in the next room. The sister is a fighter, tied to her phone and ready to join the protests. The brother is a competitor and can't tear himself away from playing video games. The narrator is a worrier, looking for an oxygen mask somewhere, anywhere, to help ease his worry.  

The end pages of each section depict breathing in through the nose, sniffing a flower, and out through the mouth, blowing out a birthday candle on a cupcake. Those simple instructions and vivid artwork pulled it all together for me. Breathing safely has never been more important or talked about more during this troubled time and Ain't Burned All the Bright leaves the reader with the courage to keep breathing. Unlike anything you've seen or read, Reynolds and Griffin have created a wonder that benefits from multiple readings to match the words with the artwork and to savor each on their own. 

Mar 9, 2022