In a word – and to quote from the title – this book is amazing. Filled with poems chosen by award-winning poet Lee Bennett Hopkins that celebrate the wonders of our diversity, this gorgeous book is populated by the vibrant immediacy of Chris Soentpiet‘s stunning canvases that breathe life in the very amazing faces all around us.
The opening poem, “Amazing Face” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, acknowledges Soentpiet’s own background as a Korean adoptee … the gurgling baby in motion, his arms flung wide, his one little foot up in the air, laughing in joy at his adoring mother holding him up for all the world to see as she tells him, “Amazing, your face. / Amazing.” Clearly mother and child are not biologically related, but they have all the love to make them a forever-family. [Soentpiet groupies will also call to mind his illustrations for a previous book, Jin Woo by Eve Bunting, one of the most affecting picture books on transracial adoption, mostly because of Soentpiet's art.]
Soentpiet masterfully gathers a memorable crowd from all walks of life: from a young boy who has fallen asleep waiting for his mother to finish her long hours of sewing work in an excerpt from “My Chinatown” by Kam Mak, to a fabulous little girl with can-do attitude admiring her strong reflection in the bilingual “Me x 2″ by Jane Medina, to the no-longer-lonely student whose teacher asks her to play in “Miss Stone” by Nikki Grimes, to the high-fisted young girl with flying ponytail and outstretched foot mid-kick in “Karate Kid” by Jane Yolen, to a young boy watching the nighttime shimmer in “High in the Sky” by Pat Mora … the list goes on and on …
Perhaps the most heartstring-pulling of all is “A Young Soldier” by Prince Redcloud, which captures the strong embrace of a father and his son who has just returned from military service, as the mother stands in the doorway in shocked relief, waiting her turn for a beloved hug from her young man who has seen too much: “… keeping / miles of memories / sealed within // one / heartbreaking / boyish / grin.”
As a grandmother and two grandchildren share memories in “Abuela” by J. Patrick Lewis, and a great crowd gathers for nighttime festivities in “My People” by Langston Hughes, gather your family, share Amazing Faces, and cherish the moments of wonder-filled togetherness.