Dave the Potter – Picture Book Perfect Friday

Spread the love



Dave the Potter  – Artist, Poet, Slave

Written by Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrated by Bryan Collier



Published by Little, Brown and Company 2011

Caldecott Honor Book 2011

Themes: Slavery, poetry, pottery, art, faith, African-American history

Suitable for ages: 7 – 10

Opening:        To us

it is just dirt,

the ground we walk on,

Scoop up a handful.

The gritty grains slip

between your fingers.

Brief Synopsis: Dave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living as a slave in South Carolina in the 1800s. A potter and a poet.  This is story of strength (both spiritually and physically, for it is difficult to throw clay pots of the size and scope Dave made – 20 to 40 gallons) and creativity. It also présents the reader with a mystery, for so little is really know about Dave . . . how was he trained when so few slaves were? How did he learn to read? The artwork is beautiful, but the foldout picture of Dave’s strong hands pulling the jar out of the clay on the potters wheel is truly remarkable. The text is short and lyrical and evocative  of Dave’s own poems. One example,

“I wonder where is all my relation

friendship to all — and, every nation.”

The free verse focuses on the stages of creating a pot, from gathering the clay to finishing the pot. Dave’s visonary and compassionate spirit emerge through his pots and his poems.

Links to Resources: The back of the book includes: more of Dave’s poetry, an author and illustrator’s note, bibliography and websites.

This website includes extensive lesson plans and curriculum materials.

A Pottery and Face Jugs Lesson

More clay activities

Why I like this book: The text is sweet, yet strong and lyrical and I believe draws even a young reader into the creative energies of being a poetic potter. The artwork is sublime, and for younger children, maybe you will stop at the storyline and pictures, which invite them alongside Dave and his potter’s wheel, in his creative process. The watercolor and collage illustrations are beautiful, detailed and powerful. The earth tones used are perfect for the subject and the various perspectives used will captivate older children and adults. This is a deserving award winner. Older children will additionally enjoy the wealth of non-fictional information at the back of the book.

This is part of Picture Book Perfect Friday, a series of reviews and resources for parents and teachers coordinated by Susanna Leonard Hill.

And part of Gathering Books 2012 Award Winning Book Reviews, where I aim to review 12 award winning children’s books through the year. Do check it out and join in!

This entry was posted in Perfect Picture Book Friday and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Dave the Potter – Picture Book Perfect Friday

  1. This sounds like a great book! Is the book based on a real person or around events that really took place? I like the cover illustration.

  2. Joanna says:

    Good question, EriK, I should have made it more clear. Yes Dave truly existed, but we know very little about him except really some of these wonderful lines of poetry full of faith and hope, that he carved into many of his splendid giant pots, which have survived.

  3. Wow, Joanna. I was going to ask the same question as Erik — that info gives the book a whole new level of value and interest. I already had this on my Amazon list as a “maybe,” but now it’s a yes. That bit of text is so beautiful, and the cover gives me the sense of quiet strength. Really lovely – thank you.

  4. Beautiful selection of books Joanna. I have read the story and was just captivated by its strength demonstrated through the illustrations and story. It is a wonder how he learned to read and write, and how he became an artisan as a slave. I really enjoyed this book and I loved your review.

  5. Susanna says:

    This book sounds wonderful! I have certainly heard of it, but never read it. I will have to add it to my list. Is it non-fiction? It’s hard to tell… sounds like it could be… I love your description of the art and language, and the activities look great. Thanks so much for this addition to PPBs!

  6. I’ll have to pick this one up next time out at the library. Thanks for the wonderful review of the book. I really enjoy poetic and historical books (I have a feeling my oldest will like this one too)

  7. Oh wow. What a great teaching book. I instantly fell in love with the sweet voice in your opening. I have to read it now. It looks truly inspirational. Love the title and subtitle: Dave the Potter – Artist, Poet, Slave. Excellent! 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      Robyn. i too love the subtitle. I so wish we knew more for indeed what an incredible man he must have been to become literate and a skilled artisan as a slave!

  8. Miranda Paul says:

    Joanna – great pick. I love this book. A deserving award-winner indeed. Thank you for sharing!!

  9. Natalie says:

    I haven’t read this one, but your description of it, certainly makes me want to read it. It looks like a beautiful book, both in writing and illustration, and an appropriate pick for PPBF! 🙂

  10. Loni Edwards says:

    Hi Joanna,

    I love this book! I agree, I also love the text and the earth tone illustrations. Yes, it’s very clear why this was an award winner.

    A great addition to the PPBF library.

  11. Very interesting review and the the discussion in the comments makes me want to add this to my library list. I’m interested in non-fiction books and so very neat they were able to use Dave’s own words.

  12. I’ve seen and heard about this book so much. I think I finally need to break down and check it out of the library!

  13. This book is right up my alley, with the focus on the arts, history, a real and inspiring person — win, win, win.

    Thank you!

  14. Tracy Bermeo says:

    This looks like an amazing book. My older kids have just started asking about slavery and what being African-American means. They’ve also both thrown clay on a wheel and loved it. Children are often better than adults because they don’t over-think it. I’ll have to pass this on to a friend of mine who is a potter and artist who uses art as therapy for autistic children and adults. Thank you for sharing this book!

  15. The title says alot. I have read and seen similar ones and I was just thinking as I read your review that there must be many others out there like this one of the time and era. Loved the power behind such gentle lyical words. Thanks Joanna.

  16. MiMi Atkins says:

    Wonderful text selection and the book popular in elementary schools. When I visit my daughter’s school in I always see it in a teacher’s library or a child walking around with it.

  17. Hi Joanna, I remembered doing a book review of Dave the Potter as well in GatheringBooks sometime February of last year (http://wp.me/pDlzr-Vw) which you might also want to check out – I think we entered it for Black History Month. Regarding the questions raised by the others above, there is actually another book by Leonard Todd entitled “Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave” that contains a more comprehensive/detailed account of Dave’s life – I also included that in my review – there is also another youtube link that I included – seems like there has been quite a huge amount of interest in Dave’s life. 🙂

    PS: You might also want to link up to the Sign-Up post rather than the January Link round-ups in your post above. And thanks for adding this into the January link now. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      Thanks for all the additional information, Myra, more useful resources for parents and teachers.

      I have done the link up and think all is in order. Since changing worpdress theme a few months back I have been totally unable to add badges. I DO hope to resolve this soon!

  18. Pingback: Comment Challenge 2012 – GatheringBooks Dives In – A Running Update «

  19. Heather says:

    The cover art is stunning, I want to see more! The pottery and face jug activity looks like a lot of fun and I’m going to try it here with my three dudes. A great choice for PPBF this week, thank you!

  20. Great review, and thanks for giving this book more exposure. We need more books like this! The next generation needs to have more appreciation for our history and diversity, and you’re helping foster that endeavor. Kudos!

  21. Joanna, I have heard of this book but have yet to order it. I definitely need to add it to my list! I took a pottery class several years ago, and throwing clay on a wheel is not easy! What an amazing talent to be able to throw these large pots that Dave created-and the mystery surrounding his skills and his poetry really draws me into the story. I want to know more!

  22. I love sharing books with young children that give them a picture of what life was like before “now”.
    Thank you, Joanna…as with most of the books recommended for Susannah’s PPBF, this one sounds like adults will love it as much as the kids. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      Vivian, you are absolutely right. In many ways I do feel one of the attributes of a really good picture books is to appeal to both audiences!

  23. Linda Baie says:

    I’m late finding your post, just checking back once in a while to see the award winning reviews. I loved your words telling about this book, & the book sounds beautiful. What an inspiring story to read to students, and for just myself. Thank you!

  24. Will Granger says:

    Great Review! This reminds me of a book titled “A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park. It won a Newbery Medal. It is about a young man in Korea who is learning to be a potter.

  25. I adore this book. I was fortunate enough to see one of Dave the Potter’s enormous pots in a traveling show a few years back. As a potter, I just wanted to put my hands in that pot and pull my fingers up the sides as I would when throwing a pot. Of course, that wasn’t possible (or appropriate anyway). As a writer and potter, I stood there in awe admiring the strength and softness displayed by the pot and Dave’s words.

    • Joanna says:

      Oh my, how wonderful, Michelle! I love that juxtaposition, as you say, of strength and softness in his art. This picture book conveys that beautifully!

  26. I just finally read this book last night and it is every bit as beautiful as you said. Right when I Finished I wanted to read it again. Dave the Potter is a fantastic read and a super beautiful human being who as a slave was able to do so much more than just work.

    I am so glad you reviewed this book and made me aware of it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.