Children's Literature - Beverly KobrinAmazing Grace, the hauntingly beautiful and spiritually uplifting hymn was written, ironically, by a man whose logs, journals and other writings make up "one of the most detailed records of the slave trade that has ever existed." Jim Haskins' biography of the Englishman, John Newton (1725-1807), recounts the man's troubled youth, his experiences on slave ships as crewmember and captain, and the illness that ended his sailing at the age of 29. It describes how Newton became a minister, wrote a number of hymns-including Amazing Grace-in collaboration with the poet William Cowper, and many years later, became active in the movement to abolish slavery. Put this on your "Good Book, Bad Cover" shelf when you get it, for its unimaginative cover will otherwise attract few readers.
School Library JournalGr 4-6-- A different verse of this famous hymn begins each chapter as Haskins skillfully reveals its origins. In the process, readers learn about the life of the composer, John Newton, who was once a slave trader. A small slice of history unfolds, along with the profound changes that made Newton finally speak out against slavery and moved him to share, in song, his faith in God. The writing is fluid and interesting; the archival photographs and full-color reproductions are clear and relevant. A unique and uplifting story.-- Marilyn Long Graham, Lee County Library System, Ft. Myers, FL
Ilene Cooper"Amazing Grace" is a song familiar to many young people, either through their church or simply through popular recordings. Here, Haskins profiles the man behind the song, John Newton, a British slave trader turned minister who became an ardent abolitionist. The author makes Newton's story compelling, especially his realization of the injustice of slavery. The book is nicely designed, with plenty of white space and attractive paintings and lithographs illustrating eighteenth-century life. The subject may be slightly esoteric, but history and music classes should find uses for Haskins' account. Though each chapter begins with four lines of the song, nowhere in the book are the complete lyrics given together--amazing.
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