YA – Ain’t Burned All the Bright

Reynolds, Jason, and Jason Griffin, illustrator. Ain’t Burned All the Bright. A Caitlin Dlouhy Book, 2022. 978-1-534-43946-7. unpaged. $19.99. Grades 7-12.

In a three-part poem using breath as a metaphor, Jason Reynolds depicts what it’s like to be a young Black person in America, in the present moment. Breath One addresses the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, as the speaker’s mother watches a repetitive news cycle that “won’t change into something new.” Breath Two relates his father’s struggles to breathe without coughing, a clear reference to COVID-19; the cough is a “blues trumpet in his throat.” Breath Three alludes to climate change, pollution, wildfires, and rising sea levels through a futile search for an oxygen mask. In a pivot, seeing a hint of a smile on his mother’s face, he looks for oxygen not in a box but in his family’s lovable idiosyncrasies, “seeing each other’s mess as a breath of fresh air.” Jason Griffin’s illustrations are as essential to this book as the text. Rendered on moleskine notebook pages with paint markers, sharpies, spray paint, and various kinds of tape, the images are intermittently abstract, suggestive, and realistic. All are thematically linked to Reynolds’ poems, which are cut into lines, words, and letters and incorporated into each page’s collage.

THOUGHTS: Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a work of art that readers will want to pick up again and again to fully engage with its meaning.

Novel in Verse          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Graphic Novel

Through three metaphorical breaths, readers are taken on a journey through one of the most difficult times in recent history. In Breath One, readers are introduced to a narrator who wonders “why the story won’t / change into something new” as he describes how his mother won’t change the television channel and his brother won’t look away from a video game. Stunning artwork depicts cities burning as smoke billows out of windows, a NYPD van in flames, and blacked out images. The story transitions to protests over the murder of George Floyd and the back and forth fight to breathe – to have “freedom to walk / and shout / and cry / and scream / and scroll / and post / and pray.” In Breath Two, the speaker still wonders why his mom is glued to the same channel as his father “keeps coughing / from the other room.” Artwork depicts masks and isolation as COVID ravages around the world much like a tornado destroying a town. In Breath Three, the speaker searches relentlessly for an oxygen mask “but couldn’t find / a saving grace.” Clearly painted, taped, drawn, and written on the pages of a moleskine notebook, these two powerhouse creators give readers a lot to digest. The “is anyone still here?” that follows the poem describes their process in an interview style that is not to be missed.

THOUGHTS: Ain’t Burned All the Bright is a beautiful combination of poetry and art that is best enjoyed in one sitting then returned to again and again.

Poetry          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Outbreak (Series NF)

Outbreak! Abdo Zoom, 2021. $20.00 ea. $120.00 set of 6. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Aids Crisis. 978-1-098-22325-0.
Black Death. 978-1-098-22326-7.
Covid-19 Pandemic.
978-1-098-22327-4.
Ebola Outbreak. 978-1-098-22328-1.
Spanish Flu. 978-1-098-22329-8.
Typhoid Epidemic. 978-1-098-22330-4.

Covid – 19 Pandemic is a nonfiction book about the Covid 19 pandemic and features information about the beginning of the virus as well as some of the more recent information. There is nothing found within this nonfiction book about the vaccines; however, it does mention that the scientists are continuing to work on something for Covid-19. There is a glossary found in the back of the book, as well as an index. There is a QR code found in the back of the book that can be scanned to find more information about Covid-19. There are links from this QR code that go to the CDC Covid-19 website, the World Covid Case meter, and the WHO COVID timeline.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a great introduction to Covid-19, and is a great book to start learning about Covid-19. As the information changed, the book might become outdated quickly however, it is a good book to start with.

614.49 Diseases          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Outside, Inside

Pham, LeUyen. Outside, Inside. Roaring Books Press, 2021. 978-1-250-79835-0. 48 p. $18.99. Grades Pre-K-2. 

Capturing community, perseverance, and hope, Outside, Inside by Caldecott Honor winner LeUyen Pham is a moving testimony that depicts the global Covid-19 pandemic. With encouraging words, poetic language, and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book will help young children make sense of the virus that altered their daily lives. The story begins on an unremarkable day just before the season changes. All races and ethnicities are bustling around outside when suddenly everything changes, and everyone goes inside. The outside is quieter, different, even wilder, and the inside holds laughter, tears, and growth. While the world changed outside, the people on the inside become resilient and hopeful. As the story moves forward, the author does not shy away from heartbreaking loss or skip over the unexpected good. Instead, she gently explains that we moved from the outside to the inside to protect the ones we love. Pham never downplays the seriousness of the pandemic and illustrates vivid scenes that represent upended routines, hospital stays, job loss, and even death. Yet, she also lovingly depicts loved ones on the outside protecting those that are inside. Finally, the picture book ends with a season change as hope and love blooms in the air.

THOUGHTS: Outside, Inside’s dedication is to all essential workers, first responders, and communities across the globe. It is true that author LeUyen Pham masterfully captures how all of us felt on the outside and inside as we navigated Covid-19. I believe her author’s note at the end of the picture book is just as important as the story itself. Nearly every face painted in the book is inspired by a REAL person- people who survived or succumbed to the awful virus. She also shares that the most challenging spread to illustrate was the one that explained why we sacrificed what we did because each character shown on the page gave her “both joy and pain.” In her final words, Pham notes that Outside, Inside is “a time capsule of our moment in history when the world came together as one to do the right thing.”

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Pandemics and COVID-19 (Series NF)

Pandemics and COVID-19. The Child’s World. 2021. $19.95 ea. $119.17 set of 6. Gr. 2-5.

Dolbear, Emily. How Can I Help During COVID-19? 978-1-503-85277-8.
—. What If I’m Worried About COVID-19? 978-1-503-85318-8.
Latta, Sara. What is COVID-19? 978-1-503-85276-1.
—. Who are the COVID-19 Helpers? 978-1-503-85315-7.
Laughlin, Kara L. How Has COVID-19 Changed Our World? 978-1-503-85317-1.
—. What Is a Pandemic? 978-1-503-85316-4.

The Pandemics and COVID-19 series is a kid-friendly guide for younger readers and caregivers to explain some of the issues going on in the world with COVID-19. This series provides readers with some information on items they may not be sure about, such as what a pandemic actually is and how/why is COVID-19 different from other diseases. This series provides information that is explained in a kid-friendly way, providing up-to-date information. The series also includes some ways that readers can help out during the pandemic, as well as providing a “Good News!” section that can help keep hopes up and a positive outlook toward the future.

THOUGHTS: This series provides good information on pandemics and COVID-19. The information includes colorful photographs and captions that increase the understanding of the text. The series also includes places to find more information on questions that students may have. Pandemics and COVID-19 is a great series for those who want to help by explaining information to their students/readers, but may not be sure how to do so.

362.1962-616.2 Forensic Medicine         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Walters, Eric. Don’t Stand So Close to Me. Orca Book Publishers, 2020. 978-1-459-82787-5. 128 p. $10.95. Grades 6-8.

Eighth Grader Quinn and her friends are surprised when their school principal holds an emergency assembly two days before spring break, announcing that their vacation is extended due to COVID-19. Although she has heard her dad, an emergency room doctor, talk about the virus, she didn’t think it would actually disrupt school. At first Quinn and her friends, Isaac and Reese, look forward to watching Netflix and playing video games all day, but the free time and social distancing gets old quickly, school is closed indefinitely, and the virus gets closer to home. Isaac’s police officer mother is working all day leaving him home alone for hours, Reese’s grandmother is in isolation at the local nursing home, and Quinn’s Dad is living in the basement when not working endless hours treating record amounts of patients. Quinn, Isaac, and Reese realize that although the virus has changed everything about their lives, from the way they go to school to how they hang out with friends, they can still feel connected by supporting themselves and their community.

THOUGHTS: A timely story that many readers will relate to, although it does not depict how the pandemic affected low-income families and those with difficult family conditions. Perhaps a companion novel or sequel can show how the pandemic has affected those in different socioeconomic situations and what life will be like after a vaccine is created.

Realistic Fiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD