Author: Mary Hoffman

Plot Summary: Mary Hoffman's 1991 picture book Amazing Grace tells the story of Grace, who loves stories and especially loves acting them out. Filled with imagination and dramatic flair, Grace decides that she will play the part of Peter Pan when her teacher tells the class that they are going to perform the play. One student tells her, "You can't be Peter -- that's a boy's name." And then another student informs her, "You can't be Peter Pan. He isn't black." But Grace keeps her hand up to indicate that she wants to play this role. When Grace goes home and tells her mother and grandmother what happened at school, they tell her that she can be Peter Pan if she wants to do so. "You can be anything you want, Grace, if you put your mind to it," her grandmother says. Soon after, Grace's grandmother takes her to the ballet to see an African American ballerina play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. After the ballet, Grace dances around her room, telling herself, "I can be anything I want." After the class meets for auditions, everyone in the class votes for Grace to be Peter Pan. The play is a great success and Grace is an "amazing Peter Pan." This story inspires discussions about race, gender, role models, the limits to our ambitions, and the importance of imagination.

Posted In: Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Discussion Questions:

Why do other students tell Grace she can’t be Peter Pan because she’s black and a girl?
Is Grace’s grandmother right that Grace can be anything she wants to be?
Does it help us to hear that we can be anything we want to be? Can we?
If the class hadn’t voted that Grace should play Peter Pan, what consequences would that have had for Grace?
Does being the best mean we always get chosen?
What does it mean to be “the best?”
Why did seeing the ballerina make Grace more confident that she could be Peter Pan?
Can we imagine ourselves doing things that we never see anyone like us doing?
What is the relationship between how we look and who we are?