Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Nonfiction Picture Books Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes

[Poetry Friday] The Roots Of Amazing Grace in Poetry and Faith

How Sweet The Sound...

Myra here.

It is my absolute pleasure to join the Poetry Friday community this week yet again with another picturebook in verse that I borrowed from our library. Thank you to amazing writer, Laura Shovan, for hosting this week.

Since this book celebrates music and verse, I thought that it’s perfect given our current reading theme.

How Sweet The Sound: The Story Of Amazing Grace

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2018)
ISBN: 1481472062 (ISBN13: 9781481472067)
Borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

The story sketches very brief snippets from the life of John Newton, a ‘wretch’ who was a sailor and owned a slave ship at one point. Told in very sparse text – only around eight lines or so per full spread page, it has distilled the essence of Newton’s struggle, and sensation of being lost as a man…

… his childhood:

… and his loves:

While I confess that I don’t usually go for rhyming text, it did not feel contrived in this narrative – just truthful, and pregnant with a world of meaning in just a few lines of verse.

Admittedly, I felt that the art took center stage in this poetic narrative, so luminous and suffused with visual metaphors, adding nuance and depth to the spare lines of poetry. The gaps in between could be filled by reading the blurb in the jacketflap and the Afterword found at the end of the book.

For Poetry Friday this week, I have the supposedly original Newton song, with a few lines modified, tweaked, added here and there depending on who is using the music – from Native Americans to African Americans – as they depict their pain and triumphs through song.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Since we are also celebrating music here until end of the year, here are a few renditions of Amazing Grace that I find to be goosebumps-inducing. Do let me know which one you love best!

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

5 comments on “[Poetry Friday] The Roots Of Amazing Grace in Poetry and Faith

  1. This is a wonderful book — as you said, so spare but pregnant with meaning in just a few lines. Thanks for sharing the videos, too — all wonderful. “Amazing Grace” hasn’t been the same for me ever since President Obama sang it that time . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. laurashovan222

    Carole Boston Weatherford’s books are amazing, especially her verse biographies. I love that you included samplings of “Amazing Grace” in different voices with this post, Myra. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely love this song! Cuts straight to the heart. Would love to see the picture book!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. maryleehahn

    I immediately went to the library website and reserved this book. THANK YOU!

    And my favorite performance? Obama. Hands down. (**tears** I miss him SO much…)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Looking forward to reading and soaking up the images in this picture book Myra! Aretha and Obama come pretty close for me hard to put one ahead of the other-though what a performance from our President–Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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