Mary Hoffman was born in 1945 and began writing in 1970. Her first
book, White Magic, was published in 1975 and since then she has
written over 80 books including the series featuring the inspirational
character of Grace: Amazing Grace, Grace
and Family, Starring Grace,
Encore, Grace! and Bravo
Amazing Grace was published in 1991 and has been a huge hit both
sides of the Atlantic. Mary Hoffman had already published around
40 books before she wrote Amazing Grace, but, she says, ‘it
is fair to say that it was Grace who changed my life’.
Grace is really me – a little girl who loved stories. When
I was a little girl, acting out pantomimes with my sister, I played
all the leading parts – it didn't matter to me if they were
for boys or girls, though I noticed boys’ roles were often
more fun. So when Grace wanted to be Peter Pan, I had another character
tell her she couldn't because she was a girl. Because things have
moved on a bit in equality between the sexes since I was Grace's
age, I added another level of challenge by making her Black. So
another character says, “You can’t be Peter Pan – he
Visit the Mary Hoffman website
for further information on Mary’s life and books, as well
as tips on writing.
Among the many glowing reviews for Amazing
The writing is beautifully paced, straightforward and sensitive
without being sentimental. Books for
Young children, 1991
Because it deals with sexism and racism with very young children,
it offers a valuable starting point for classroom discussion of
unacceptable behaviour. The Bookseller, 1993
A richly illustrated story that tackles stereotypes sensitively
and intelligently. The Good Book Guide, 1997
It’s one of those simple, yet profoundly moving, stories
that confronts sexism and racism, accepts they exist, and transcends
them through a child’s honesty, humour, imagination and hope.
The Times, 2003
Amazing Grace is most directly linked to Small
Island Read 2007 by the fact that Grace’s grandmother was born in Trinidad.
The sequel Grace and Family shows Grace visiting Gambia in West
Africa, her father’s original home. The book can therefore
be used to explore the theme of migration and how the British are
made up of people from many different cultures and countries. There
is background information on this theme in the Migration section
of this website and in the readers’ guide for
The book could also be linked to classroom work on slavery, showing
how the forced migration of enslaved Africans to the Caribbean
during the Transatlantic Slave Trade has led to voluntary migration
to Britain by Caribbean people, such as Grace’s grandmother.
Incidentally, the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ was written
by John Newton, a former captain of a slave ship who died in 1807.
In addition, Amazing Grace can be used in the classroom as the
starting point for discussion and activity on the themes of self-esteem,
gender and race, treating others with respect, what makes us special,
sharing stories across different generations, who we look to for
support and encouragement, and the importance of having goals.
This could be part of programmes of study linked to Citizenship.
Although the book is classified as being suitable for KS1 reading
levels, it would also be useful for KS2 pupils in providing a basis
for small-group discussions and ‘hot-seating’ in which
the pupils themselves take the lead in asking the questions prompted
by what they have read.
As Grace loves dressing up and acting out stories, the book could
be used to encourage children to use their imagination to act out
and share their own favourite stories. They could also carry out
research to find out more about the characters Grace likes to play,
such as Joan of Arc, Hannibal or Mowgli, or about pirates or the
siege of Troy.
On this website you can download the following Word format worksheets
to use alongside Amazing Grace:
Sheets – suitable for nursery and reception pupils.
Could also be linked to research assignments for older children
in which they find out about the characters depicted.
Puzzle Sheets – suitable for KS1 pupils. Test knowledge of
the book as well as basic writing skills and word recognition.
Migration Sheets – background information and activities
suitable for KS1 and KS2.
Question Sheet – could either be used in teacher-led group
discussions at KS1, testing knowledge of the book, or as a starting
point for self-directed talking opportunities/ small discussions
for Gifted and Talented and KS2 pupils.
Other activities relating
to Amazing Grace can be found on the American website ReadWriteThink.
Amazing Grace is available in
four dual-language editions (English and Urdu, English and Panjabi,
English and Gujurati and English and Bengali) published by Frances
Lincoln as well as a big-book format.
You can read more about the book and Mary Hoffman here (Word
Read poems by Bristol pupils inspired by Amazing Grace here.
A selection of photos of pupils at Clifton High School, Bristol enjoying
Banners inspired by Amazing Grace created
by pupils at Avon Primary School in Bristol working with artist Gloria
Lord Mayor of Bristol Cllr Peter Abraham, the Lady Mayoress and pupils
of Hannah More Primary reading Amazing Grace on
launch day in Bristol (Laura Thorne).
Members and friends of Oldbury on Severn Busy Bees playgroup in South
Gloucestershire reading Amazing Grace.