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Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Dave the Potter was an outstanding artist, poet and potter whose influence is still evident in South Carolina pottery.  He lived in the 1800s and created his pottery with amazing skill, building enormous pots that could up to 40 gallons.  He was one of only two potters known to have the strength and skill to create such large pieces.  Dave was also a poet, inscribing his verse on his pottery, offering two lines of poetry and then a date.  His poems have the beauty and simplicity of Haiku and offer a unique perspective of a poet surviving in slavery.  This is a picture book that makes an important figure in history come alive, revealing his art and poetry for children. 

Hill has created a free verse of his own to tell the story of the life of Dave.  Hill’s verse is simple and striking, drawing together the connections between the simple ingredients of the clay and what it can become and the simple life of a slave and the wonder of what Dave created.  The poem leads children through the stages of making a pot from the gathering of the clay to the magic and work of creating pottery.  The book ends with more of Dave’s poetry as well as an author’s note and an illustrator’s note.  All of them speaking to the influence and importance of Dave the Potter.

Collier’s art work here is stunningly beautiful.  His watercolor and collage art speaks to the strength of Dave, the skill of his hands and the glory of his work.  The colors are rich and deep, filled with a warm earthiness that evokes pottery and clay. 

A radiant tribute to an artist, this picture book echoes the transcendent artist that Dave was.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.