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Book Review: Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou with Illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

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Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem is an inspirational holiday tale worded more for adults than children. It is especially moving during these troubling days of hardship, terror, and war. This reviewer found it easier to summarize the poem’s mystical theme as it affected him.

In the stillness of a winter night when darkness covers earth at an early hour, we dress warmly to walk with our children to a community gathering in a nearby market square. A fresh snow falls over that which crunches under each footstep. We look about. See! Back there behind us, a man plays his sax — peaceful, quiet Christmas carols; and over there, children enjoy the moment as they finish their snowman then join with their parents to enter our quiet procession.

As we pass by homes, brightly lit decorations inside and outside display, for all to see, the wish residents hold in their hearts. It is a hope that for this one night at least, peace can reign here and throughout the world. And when we reach town hall, we meet our beloved friends. Our flickering candle flames light our faces: the old, the young; dark skin, light skin. We have come to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and his message of peace for our world. We eat together; we sing together; we talk together. Our hearts want this joyous covenant of peace to last forever.

We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian, implore you to stay a while with us … we, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

I would recommend Amazing Grace: A Christmas Poem to any person who is seeking a spiritual boost, saddened by the lack of peace in today’s world. If the book is purchased for children, I’d hope the poem is read to them so that unfamiliar words and ideas can be clarified as needed; for example, “We interrogate and worry God … does the covenant you made with us still hold?”

Maya Angelou’s carefully chosen words and her book's stirring pictures prompt images of peace and quiet in one’s soul. I found myself reading Amazing Grace several times just to enjoy the feeling of walking as one with the people in the pictures.

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About Regis Schilken