Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch
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Grace was a little girl who loved stories her grandmother told her, and would often act out all the parts. When the teacher announced that the class was to perform Peter Pan as a play, Grace wanted the part of Peter Pan. Her classmates told her she could not play Pater Pan because he was a boy, and he was not black. Grace auditions anyway and wins the part, proving she can be anything she wants to be.
Amazing Grace is a great story with a great message. It tells children there are no limits to what they can be. Not only does it reinforce the positive message that you can do anything, but it also teaches tolerance and gives a broader perspective of what can and cannot be. This is a story that confronts racism and shatters stereotypes. Any child that is repressed for any reason can identify with Grace.
Some of the major themes touched on in the story are:
GENDER: Why did Grace want a role that is usually played by a boy? Is it ok for girls to do boy things? This might lead into conversations about girls in certain jobs and how students view the roles of boys and girls.
DIVERSITY: Not only is Grace a girl, but she is also black and wants to play a part of a white boy. Students can discuss fairness and prejudices people have. This discussion might be about how people are different in ways besides skin color or gender, such as disabilities, language, family life.
COURAGE: What does it say about Grace’s character that she went ahead and tried out for the part? How did Grace feel doing something others thought was unusual, or even wrong?
FAMILY: Grace’s mother and grandmother were supportive of her decision and encouraged her to try out for the part.
This is an excellent book for teachers to use in the classroom for students to learn about the importance of self esteem, to recognize that people should not be limited because of their gender or race, to promote reading of children’s literature. There are many activities that can be done to accompany the reading: put on a class play, use in unit on racism and segregation, have dress up day where students can be whoever they want to be…