Reviews for Dave the Potter : Artist, Poet, Slave

Booklist Reviews 2010 November #1
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. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Slave and accomplished potter Dave (last name unknown) left behind a legacy of artistic work in the form of beautifully sculpted ceramic jars. In lyrical poetry, Hill writes a tribute to the man; Collier's majestic watercolor collages reflect Dave's artistry. The book's pacing is especially well conceived, the illustrations shown in tempo with the text's descriptions of throwing a pot. Websites. Bib. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 August #2
The enslaved 19th-century potter Dave, who lived and worked near Edgefield, S.C., could transform 60 pounds of clay into a 40-gallon pot. Hill crafts a poetic tribute that's respectful and playful, much like the potter's own short verse, which was frequently incised onto the shoulders of his handsome stoneware jars. Collier's rich watercolor collages adopt many angles of perspective to reveal the potter's strength and artistry. From above the picture plane on a fold-out spread, he dramatically focuses on four successive stages of creation as "Dave's hands, buried / in the mounded mud, / pulled out the shape of a jar." Backmatter includes a biographical essay interspersing eight of Dave's poems with selected facts. The paragraphs don't always address Dave's often cryptic poems, which could confuse young readers, and the probable biblical basis for some of the excerpted poems is not mentioned. The questionable omission of facts about Dave's emancipation and adoption of the surname Drake relegates young readers to viewing the potter's life in enslaved stasis. Nonetheless, an accomplished, visually stunning homage to an important African-American artist. (author's and illustrator's notes, bibliography, websites) (Picture book/poetry/biography. 7-10)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 August

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

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