Dave The Potter

To us it is just dirt, the ground we walk on…But to Daveit was clay, the plain and basic stuffupon which he formed a lifeas a slave nearly 200 years ago. Dave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s. He combined his superb artistry with deeply observant poetry, carved onto his pots, transcending the limitations he faced as a slave. In this inspiring and lyrical portrayal, National Book Award nominee Laban Carrick Hill’s elegantly simple text and award-winning artist Bryan Collier’s resplendent, earth-toned illustrations tell Dave’s story, a story rich in history, hope, and long-lasting beauty.

2 thoughts on “Dave The Potter

  1. PerpieCherylMichelle says:

    P. Liwanag, C. Kreutter, and M. Costello

    Perpie: When we read this WOW section of My Take/Your Take, we immediately talked about Dave the Potter because the cover, illustrations, and the story grabbed our attention. Here’s what we thought about this book.

    Michelle: At first glance, this biography of “Dave the Potter,” may seem to simply highlight the step –by-step process of creating pottery, and a quick look through the book could validate this assumption. However, the book is really the story of Dave and his experiences as both a potter and a slave. Looking deeper at the content and images you begin to hear Dave’s story as well. It is through the use of symbolism, analogies, poetry and imagery that we make the connection between Dave’s pottery and his life experiences. The verse “…with a flat, wooden paddle large enough to row across the Atlantic, Dave mixed the clay with water…” describes the process of mixing clay but reminds us of how Dave came to be where he is now.

    Cheryl: I, too, was struck by the intense artwork. Illustrator Bryan Collier’s deep watercolors and collage provide a depth and texture to each page that draws the reader to examine and re-examine the “quilt” of his artwork. Truly this story of the great artist Dave, the Potter is told through both the poetry of the words and the poetry of the illustrations.

    Perpie: I liked this book too as the vibrant illustrations drew me in the story. While reading, I thought about Dave’s skill as a potter and how the author related this well when he wrote about how Dave was the only one who “knew how or where [the clay] would land’ and how he was “like a magician” as he formed each jar. It was good to read about Dave’s writings in the jars. I thought it was also important to know that readers see how Dave was able to express his artistry and freedom in both his pottery and poetry.

    Michelle: The thoughtful use of earth tones and water colors caught my attention too as it matches the mood and the themes of the story quite well and was almost like reading a painting. The rich browns remind us of clay and dirt, the deep greens conjure up thoughts of the earth and the fields. Each page is filled with such detail and color that it will take several readings of the book to fully experience all that it has to offer.

    Cheryl: In light of the Common Core State Standards call for increased emphasis on incorporating informational text with high levels of text complexity, the book will be an excellent choice for a read aloud to intermediate students (Grades 4 and up) and for study by older students as they examine the rich illustrations and consider the courage and artistry of the slave-potter. The text will provide fertile ground for exploring the potter’s rare talent, including his haiku-like poetry, scratched on the clay pots at a time when literate slaves were deemed dangerous. The expressive language use throughout also provides effective models for choosing just the “right” word or phrase to describe the raw materials (“gritty grains”) and raw talent (“I wonder where is all my relation friendship to all—and, every nation”).

    Perpie: I agree too that you can use this book in a variety of ways to show students how writing can be empowering. The illustrations did add depth to the meaning of the story. I also thought that both the story text and the end notes provide readers with information to get to know who Dave was as a potter and how his jars helped us come to know his poetry and his story.

  2. Crawford & Freedman says:

    Kathleen: The first time I read through this book, I wasn’t drawn into the story. It wasn’t until I examined the end of this picture book where a biographical description of Dave’s life as an artist and poet, that you see into his life through the poems that are displayed on the pots.
    Lauren: What’s interesting is in a lot of books with the end pages you can read them or not; but in this case the story itself needs the context of the end pages to understand his life. The story itself does not provide a discussion on slavery. It doesn’t bring out issues of slavery until the end pages.
    Kathleen: Interesting that this book depicts an actual historical figure of a slave who was a potter. The documentation of his pots and the writings on them was somewhat unusual to see.
    Lauren: It’s not about slavery; it’s about in spite of slavery he became an important figure in the art world “transcending limitations he had as a slave.”
    Kathleen: The story itself really is about his making of a pot told through poetic language. For example a fold out page illustrates a sequence of Dave’s hands “pulled out a shape of a jar…. like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.” I could actually feel the cold clay, and feel the pain of his chapped hands from the cold clay.
    Lauren: At the end of the book, there is a picture of Dave writing on one of his pots with the lines,

      I wonder where is all my relation
      friendship to all –
      and, every nation.

    Kathleen: It appears he is not pushing the inequity of being a slave. But more so, wondering where he comes from.
    Lauren: The book is beautifully illustrated his strong figure through torn paper and watercolor. He has historical significance, and the fact that as a slave he was able to do what he was able to do, but it is not about his life as a slave. It is a book about him making a pot. The book itself could not stand on its own without the end matter information.
    Kathleen: I read and reread the last line of the story, thinking, is this the end. Which encouraged me to continue to the end matter wanting to know about this artist.
    Lauren: There is a bibliography with many books and websites listed to find out more historical information on Dave the potter. It’s almost like this book is a beginning of a study on Dave, but you want to know more.
    Kathleen: Even though I think this book might be difficult to stand on its own, it would be good in a text with other books where questions can be discussed such as: How did he learn to read and write?

      •How did he lose his leg?
      •Why did his owner allow him to be a potter?
      •Was his owner “better” to his slaves than other slave owners ?

    Lauren: Yes, this book can connect to other books such as More than Anything Else (Bradby, 1995). Just as Booker T’s desire to become literate, Dave had the will to become a potter.

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