cover image How Sweet the Sound

How Sweet the Sound

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Frank Morrison. Atheneum, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4814-7206-7

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. [em]Author’s agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (May) [/em]