“Grace was a girl who loved stories” and so was I. Still am, in fact, at heart. There are now four picture books, three big books, three chapter-books and a third written (to be published next year), a paper doll, a cloth doll and a stills video. The picture books have been read on TV and radio and I still get a lot of fan mail about Grace. A student at South Alabama university has made a trailer for Amazing Grace! You can see it on YouTube.
Writing about Grace
Danika Allen, who played Grace in the Children's Theatre Company
production of Amazing Grace in Minneapolis
> This is the cover of, amazingly, the 25th Anniversary Edition of Amazing Grace
> If you've yet to meet Grace, definitely grab a copy of this anniversary edition as it's stunningly reprinted - and we know that you'll fall in love with her as much as we have too!
Amazing Grace, the first book about Grace, was published in 1991. No one, not even myself, suspected how popular Grace would become. It has been included (2013) in Booktrust's list of the 100 Best Books for Children in the last 100 years!
The central idea of the Grace books - that you can be anything you want - has caught the imagination of thousands of readers. This is my own account of the Grace Story. I had already written about forty books by the time Amazing Grace was published in 1991, but it is fair to say that it was Grace who changed my life. I roughed out the story sitting in a health club in London, wearing a towel. I was far away from the doorbell's ring or the phone.
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 wasn't Black".
The success of this picture book, with its wonderful watercolours by Caroline Binch, marked a urning point in my career. Caroline's work was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway medal, which is the illustrators' equivalent to the Carnegie, but sadly did not win.
But Grace was taken to the hearts of the American public - the first book about her has gone into its 48th edition in hardback in the United States, and there has been a play based on it and Boundless Grace in Minneapolis, a doll manufactured in San Francisco, readings on TV and radio, a stills video, and talk of an animation.
I’m told that altogether the Grace books have sold a million and half copies world-wide!
Mary Hoffman (right) pictured with Shay Youngblood, who adapted Amazing Grace for the Children's Theatre Company production, at the premiere, January 1995.
Laura Bush, wife of the American president, chose Amazing Grace as one of her five favourite children's books. She described it as a story about how you can be whatever you want to be. The other books were Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel and Dr Seuss’s Hop on Pop.
LAURA BUSH’S choice of Mary Hoffmann’s Amazing Grace as one of her favourite, must-read children’s books may seem like ducking out from naming JK Rowling or Philip Pullman, both anathema to the fundamentalist Christian lobby.
In fact, it is an inspired one. Americans have always taken picture-books seriously as an art form, thanks to the native genius of Maurice Sendak and Ludwig Bemelmans, but Amazing Grace is exactly the kind of book to appeal to the can-do American attitude...
Amanda Craig, The Times
There is an article in Books for Keeps about writing Grace and Family that you can read online.
All my books about Grace are published in the UK by Frances Lincoln, who do lots of multi-cultural books you might be interested in. You can find out more about them on their website.
Amazing Grace is available in these dual language editions:
English and Urdu
English and Panjabi
English and Gujurati
English and Bengali
Amazing Grace, Grace and Family, Princess Grace and Grace at Christmas are all picture books. Starring Grace, Encore Grace and Bravo Grace! are all junior readers.
Grace at Christmas Frances Lincoln (2011) Buy from Amazon
I discovered that Levar Burton (Geordi from Star Trek: The Next Generation) loves my book Amazing Grace!
Grace's story is a stunningly simple yet subtle exploration of how a child's transcendent imagination sees to the heart of story: Hiawatha or the Tale of Troy are not about race or gender, therefore race and gender are immaterial. Grace wants to be Peter Pan in the school play but classmates say she can't be because she's a girl and she's black. Ma is angry but Nana knows that Grace can succeed if she wants to. Grace shines at the auditions and gets the part. The play with its colour-blind casting is a triumph. The vibrant, nuanced illustrations complement the spare text perfectly.
Gill Vickery, author, teacher, former librarian
Gorgeous water colour illustrations portraying a determined talented child and her warm family enhance an excellent text and positive message of self-affirmation. Grace is an amazing girl and this is an amazing book.
School Library Journal, 1991
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
Grace and Family
Mary Hoffman has written a poignant story of a young girl’s attempts to come to terms with a broken family… Hoffman does not makle any attempt to romanticise Grace’s predicament, her journey to Africa or her newfound relationship with her father. She does not try to resolve the irresolvable, but this is a story that makes the complexities of modern family relationships acceptable and meaningful to children.
... the book brims with authenticity.
Sunday Telegraph, 1995
Hoffman has once again imbued her story with an abundance of familial understanding.
Publisher’s Weekly, 1995
This is a book which will appeal to children right across the primary age range, especially those who are not part of a ‘story book family’. It will help them to see that families are simply ‘what you make them’.
School Librarian, 1995
Grace and Family glows with a magic all its own.
Junior Education, 1995
This book is a celebration of family and friendship, and of children’s resourcefulness in creating other worlds using imagination and a few simple props… A warm, thoroughly enjoyable book for children of primary age, who will no doubt recognise some of their own fantasies; the stories would also be delightful to read aloud.
School Librarian, 2000
This story is a celebration of childhood at its best and since it reflects multicultural contemporary Britain it will be the ideal book top promote positive images of ethnic groups. Highly recommended.
Book Trust, 2000
Hoffman and Binch have successfully transferred Grace out of picture books, working some of the themes into greaterv depth while maintaining sparkle and pace.
TES Primary, 2000
Grace, of Amazing Grace fame, is back in another book about her life at home and school. Her friends, ambitions and preoccupations are brought brilliantly to life by Mary Hoffman, who understands the workings of all the relationships in a child’s universe.
Adele Geras, TES, 2003
As always with the books about this strong young girl, the real drama is in the reworking of the traditional fairytales on stage and in her personal life. The book… demonstrates in both pictures and text, that there are plenty of new, [positive roles and opportunities in today’s diverse families.
Grace is still the adventurous one, the ones who speaks out, who we’ve liked all along.
Chicago Tribune, 2005
I wrote an article for The Guardian in 2007 about princesses and pinkness in books for girls.
Nikki Gamble recently interviewed me about Amazing Grace and my other books about Grace. You can read the interview on the Write Away website.
Grace is handled with such deftness and humour that Princess Grace will find its way into every heart.
Amanda Craig in the Times | Read more
This new title from the exceptional Mary Hoffman deals with racism and sexism in a positive way.
The Bookseller Back to School Preview 8.6.07
Mary Hoffman's Princess Grace is the perfect antidote to the never-ending stream of pink princesses ... How refreshing
Nikki Gamble, The Bookseller 20.7.07
Grace at Christmas
Starring in her fourth picture book, Grace learns that her Nana has invited distant family friends to spend Christmas with them. Grace isn’t sure about having strangers there, but she and shy Savannah discover that they have something in common: Grace misses her father, who lives in Africa, as much as Savannah misses being in Trinidad for Christmas. Hoffman’s empathetic storytelling and Van Wright and Hu’s naturalistic illustrations make the most of Grace’s abundant humor and personality. It’s a contemporary holiday story with no shortage of heart.
What a treat it is to see Grace’s buoyant smile beaming confidently from a book jacket once more. Grace’s wit, talent, and determination are all there expressing the fully rounded character we have come to know in the series of books that began with Amazing Grace. The new illustrators have done a fantastic job in giving a fresh look to the pictures while keeping to the original feel of Caroline Binch’s work. They have retained the tradition of vividly coloured realism with powerful characterisations seamlessly and this is quite a feat. The blending is done in the writing too, of course. It’s not easy to maintain continuity with a character after very long breaks, but Mary Hoffman makes it seem that way with her deft touch and consummate skill.
Multilayered, yet simply written, Hoffman confronts the recurring sadness of split families at Christmas, that pain which despite the passage of time and desire to minimize the impact can be just as powerful as when it first occurred. Linking this with the Christmas tradition of welcoming strangers, Grace, her family and visitors act out the Christmas story, displaying a joyful sense of fun and closeness that cleverly underscore the true meaning of Christmas. But this is not all. Hoffman also manages to bring back the ballerina who inspired Grace in her first book, and so once again the sense of beauty, achievement and (not surprisingly) ‘grace’ is celebrated.
This is a lovely story about inclusiveness, which would make a great Christmas present.
Books for Keeps five star review
Grace loves everything about Christmas, especially acting out all the parts in the Nativity. But when strangers come to stay with Grace and her family, she wants to say "no room at the inn." Will Grace learn to give up the spotlight and make these new friends feel welcome? Just in time for the twentieth anniversary of "Amazing Grace," the newest addition to the acclaimed series will capture the hearts of established fans and new readers alike.