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Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave Hardcover – September 7, 2010


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 1
  • Lexile Measure: 1100L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031610731X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316107310
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

K-Gr 4–The life of an astonishingly prolific and skilled potter who lived and died a slave in 19th-century South Carolina is related in simple, powerful sentences that outline the making of a pot. The movements of Dave's hands are described using familiar, solid verbs: pulling, pinching, squeezing, pounding. Rural imagery–a robin's puffed breast, a carnival wheel–remind readers of Dave's surroundings. The pithy lines themselves recall the short poems that Dave inscribed on his pots. Collier's earth-toned watercolor and collage art extends the story, showing the landscape, materials, and architecture of a South Carolina farm. Alert readers will find hidden messages in some of the collages, but what stands out in these pictures are Dave's hands and eyes, and the strength of his body, reflected in the shape and size of his legendary jars and pots. A lengthy author's note fleshes out what is known of the man's life story and reproduces several of his two-line poems. A photograph of some of Dave's surviving works cements the book's link to the present and lists of print and online resources encourage further exploration. An inspiring story, perfectly presented and sure to prompt classroom discussion and projects. Outstanding in every way.Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

As a closing essay explains, little is known about the man known as Dave the potter. Two things are certain, though: he was a slave in South Carolina, and he was a potter of uncommon skill. As Hill writes, “Dave was one of only two potters at the time who could successfully make pots that were larger than twenty gallons.” He also inscribed strange, sophisticated poetry into the clay: “I wonder where / is all my relation / friendship to all— / and, every nation.” The verses Hill uses to introduce us to Dave are sometimes just as evocative: “On wet days, / heavy with rainwater, / it is cool and squishy, / mud pie heaven.” The book’s quiet dignity comes from its refusal to scrutinize life as a slave; instead, it is nearly a procedural, following Dave’s mixing, kneading, spinning, shaping, and glazing. Collier’s gorgeous watercolor-and-collage illustrations recall the work of E. B. Lewis—earth-toned, infused with pride, and always catching his subjects in the most telling of poses. A beautiful introduction to a great lost artist. Grades K-3. --Daniel Kraus

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 32 customer reviews
Dave the Potter is a poignant story and a beautifully illustrated book.
D. Campbell
It sparked a great discussions about African-Americans' contributions, slavery and its' lingering effects, and how we learn about the past.
C. Harris
Dave the Potter is a story of the life of Dave Drake who is an enslaved African-American potter.
land1

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By aaa-Pam TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I had purposed this book to be apart of an ongoing History discussion I was having with my children --boy and girl, 8 and 10 -- on the Civil War. I meant to personalize the historical era which is basically incomprehensible to children this young if you don't give them someone they can understand. And eventually we did get around to this discussion, but first it had to wait. Why? Because my children were awestruck by Bryan Collier's beautiful illustrations. His drawings just grabbed their attention and they had to examine them thoroughly before we could get back to the text. (There's something just magically about how a pot can be pulled out of the blob of clay, and they just had to go through the process multiple times before we could move on :)

Dave's hands, buried
in the mounded mud,
pulled out the shape of a jar.

Like a
magician
pulling
a rabbit
out of
a hat...

How true. And Bryan's palate of rich browns and ochres brought that magic to life. And served to make Dave "real" to my kids. So that when we got around to that conversation about what the Civil War was about we could talk about how amazing his artwork and poems were in the context of a time when it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write.

THE SKINNY:::
Dave is a fascinating man and I think the author and illustrator made this perfectly clear.

Besides putting slavery in perspective, I really liked how inspirational his story was. Dave managed, somehow, in a time when it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, to produce poetry. And his story is really one of the inextinguishable human spirit.

I wish the book had included some information about the rest of Dave's life.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on September 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Enslaved potter Dave produced thousands of beautiful pieces of pottery over the course of his life, a true accomplishment given that the institution of slavery denied most African Americans access to skilled trades. Dave's pottery is even more extraordinary given that a number of pieces were inscribed with poems he wrote himself at a time when southern states prohibited the education of slaves.

This thoughtful, creative picture book pays tribute to Dave the potter. Rhythmic verse and expressive watercolor/collage images harmonously present the story of how Dave would have created one of his lovely jars, from transforming the earth into clay and spinning the clay on the wheel, to finishing the piece with an inscription and glaze. Together with the afterword, the prose and illustrations provide a useful resource for teaching young learners about slavery and different ways in which African Americans resisted this oppressive system.
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Format: Hardcover
Dave gathered a handful of sand and watched as it slowly sifted through his fingers. No one else saw what he did as the grains fell to the ground. He was a slave two hundred years ago, but he reached beyond its clutches and became an artist. The sand and clay quickly became works of art in his hands. "To us it is just a pot, round and tall, good for keeping marbles or fresh-cut flowers. But to Dave it was a pot large enough to store a season's grain harvest, to put up salted meat, to hold memories." Yes, Dave saw what none of us saw and it began with those grains of sand slowly sifting through his fingers.

A horse was hitched to the long wooden arm of the pug mill. He went round and round as the gears ground the sand and water together to make that clay that others put in wheelbarrows to carry to Dave. When he received the clay, he mixed it "with water drawn from Big Horse Creek, until [it] was wet and stiff and heavy. His big beautiful black hand kneaded the clay in preparation for its spin on the potter's wheel. He leaned over his work concentrating as "His chapped thumbs pinched into the center, squeezed the inside against his fingers outside." What would come off the wheel that started from tiny grains of sand? What would he write on his work?

This is a marvelous story of an artist who saw something beautiful in the dirt under his feet. This story, told in free verse was simply mesmerizing. The stunning artwork meshed perfectly with the tale. The reader will almost be able to hear the wheels turning in Dave's head as he thought about what he wanted to create on the potter's wheel. Dave was a South Carolinian slave in the 1800s whose work survives as a testimony to his greatness.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on October 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When author Laban Carrick Hill first learned the inspiring story of Dave the Potter, an outstanding 19th century folk artist, poet, and slave, he was determined to share Dave's story with young readers.

He decided to tell Dave's story in free-verse, explaining the process of creating a pot from beginning to end. With powerful close-up images of Dave's hands forming the clay on the potter's wheel, we read: "Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat,/Dave's hands, buried/in the mounded mud,/pulled out the shape of a jar." While the clay dries, we see Dave preparing the special "glasslike brown glaze to withstand time." Finally, Dave inscribes his jar with a special poem, signing his name and the date.

In an era in which few slaves learned skilled trades such as pottery, and slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write, Dave's works are particularly extraordinary; at the conclusion of the book, the author provides more details of the little that is known about Dave's life, and also reproduces a number of Dave's surviving verses.

The stunning illustrations by award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier are inseparable from the text. Done in a palette dominated by the earth tones of the clay itself, the illustrations are done in a combination of watercolor and collage and show the step-by-step process of creating a pot. The images are infused with a monumental and even spiritual quality which highlights the dignity of Dave's work.

The book includes a brief bibliography of resources, both print and websites, about Dave.
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