07 Apr / Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jason Griffin [in Booklist]
Virtuoso Jason Reynolds’ latest is another chameleonic masterpiece, brilliantly consumable in various mediums, each providing transporting rewards. The original collaboration, conceived between best friends Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, works best on the page: Reynolds’ glorious words – cut-out phrases and sentences – laid over Griffin’s stupendous collaged spreads create a visually spectacular literary feast.
In the ears, Reynolds’ words carry the narration in one of the most inventive recent audiobook adaptations/presentations: the book gets read twice, first by Reynolds alone, then by a full cast (Nile Bullock, Tatum Marylin Hall, JaQwan J. Kelly, DePre Owens). The former will surely be appreciated by purists, with Reynolds intimately enhancing and amplifying every phrase, every pause, every beat exactly as he intended. The latter repeats the exact same text, yet the experience turns the familiar into an utterly altered experience with multiple voices ciphering contrasting interpretations.
Both, of course, resonate. And yet Reynolds’ embodiment of his three “Breaths” – a boy observing his TV news-addicted mother, video-gaming brother, and protest-planning sister; the boy’s ill, coughing father separated in another room; the boy struggling to breathe amidst systemic oppression but finding solace among family – feels like an all-encompassing embrace.
A final treat: a provenance-revealing conversation between Reynolds and Griffin – “that’s all” – appends the recording.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult