Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* This song of hope and inspiration had its seeds in a ship's hold. John Newton, a hardened British sailor, a bitter man, survives storms and near starvation on the slave ship Greyhound. Newly aware of God's grace, he slowly turns his life around (though not before captaining a slave ship of his own). When his seafaring days are behind him, he becomes a minister and pens the words to Amazing Grace, which is eventually put to the melody of a popular song. As Weatherford chronicles, the song has been sung continually ever since: as part of the abolition movement; by the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears; as a twentieth-century protest song; and led by Barack Obama in a Charleston church following a horrendous killing. Weatherford does her own amazing job of telling the story in rhymed couplets that make the events digestible for young readers. Her compact history is juxtaposed against Morrison's majestic paintings, dramatic spreads that breathe life into both Newton's story and the history that followed. The afterword closely follows the text, a boon for children wanting more information. The song's verses and suggestions for further reading and listening complete this fine package.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2018 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Morrison's vibrant, sometimes haunting oil paintings join Weatherford's spare, rhyming couplets to delineate the birth and reach of the famed hymn "Amazing Grace." Dynamic spreads highlight the life of Reverend John Newton, the Englishman who penned the inspirational song in the late 1700s. Originating from Newton's dramatic conversion story (he starts as an embittered sailor serving aboard a slave ship and becomes a minister and antislavery activist), the meaningful song spreads far and wide. "Choirs make the song their own./ Newton's timeless hymn has grown./ Verses added here and there/ Till this song is like a prayer." Verses trace the anthem's use during the Civil War and the abolitionist and civil rights movements. One poignant spread depicts a pregnant African-American slave singing the hymn in a cotton field; she faces a pregnant Cherokee woman on the opposite page, chanting it on the Trail of Tears. The penultimate spread shows Barack Obama singing it at a church-shooting victim's funeral. A reprint of the song's lyrics is included, along with a further reading list and listening suggestions, and an author's note recounts the song's history in prose. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 3-5-On board the slave ship Greyhound is rough-and-tumble British sailor John Newton, who, caught in a terrible storm and fearing for his life, recalls the events that brought him to this harrowing moment. Upon safely reaching land, Newton devotes himself to God and turns his life around. Later in life, Newton becomes a minister, speaks out against slavery, and pens the now-famous lyrics to "Amazing Grace." From here, Weatherford traces the evolution of the hymn, as it makes its way to North America, finds a tune, continues to grow, and becomes a beacon throughout U.S. history-from a cotton plantation to the Trail of Tears, through the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and on to Barack Obama's presidency. The book then concludes with the lyrics to the song. Written in spare rhyming verse, every word is deliberate, and every line carefully crafted to maintain the meter, resulting in a striking trochaic rhythm that begs to be read aloud, but may also leave young readers that lack historical context confused about the time line of events; an author's note at the back of the book helps to fill in some of the details missing from or merely alluded to in the text. What truly makes the book stand out are Morrison's stunning oil paintings, which vividly bring to life Newton's personal experiences and moments of larger historical importance. Suggestions for further reading, listening, and viewing are also included. VERDICT A richly illustrated, if sparely written, account of the history and legacy of "Amazing Grace" for medium to large collections.-Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
Spare rhyming text briefly touches on important life events of John Newton, an English slave trader turned abolitionist minister and the writer of a poem that evolved into the inspiring hymn. Rich, full-bleed oil paintings are powerfully evocative, but Newton is difficult to visually recognize page-to-page, creating confusion. An appended author's note provides historical details critical to understanding the subject. Reading list, websites. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
In rhyming verse, Weatherford depicts the origin and longevity of the hymn "Amazing Grace."John Newton, a passenger aboard the slave ship Greyhound, is "brawling, swearing." A storm rages; John fears for his life and "relives his past." He learned hymns and Bible study from his mother as a young child, then left religion behind after his mother died when he was 7 and went to sea with his father. He became a "scoundrel, rascal, picking fights." Aboard the Greyhound, John prays, "Lord, just let me see the dawn." Finally they reach England, and grateful John "is reborn." He captains a ship and marries, and when he retires, he "preaches to end slavery." In this new life, he writes the well-known opening stanza of "Amazing Grace." The "lyrics sail across the sea," where they are adapted and sung by enslaved people in the Americas, Cherokees forced along the Trail of Tears, Civil War soldiers, Mahalia Jackson, and finally Barack Obama. The illustrations are dramatic oil paintings that successfully evoke gravity, sorrow, and religiosity. The lyrical text presents a mature story in spare verse, so younger readers may need to hear it several times, or have parts explained to them, in order for the meaning to sink in. Exposure to the story, however, needn't wait.An enriching picture of a hymn that has touched hearts over centuries and across the world. (author's note, further reading, listening, and viewing) (Informational picture book. 5-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.