Friday, March 11, 2011

Dave the Potter; Artist, Poet, Slave

by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Little, Brown and Company. 2010. (Library copy). Stunningly illustrated picture book in verse, presenting the life and work of poet/potter Dave. Born in slavery around 1800, Dave has come to be known as one of the most important potters of the 19th c. in the area of Edgefiel, South Carolina. Laban Carrick Hill became interested in him after hearing a talk on his pottery and seeing one of Dave's poems engraved in the sides of the pots. Not only did he specialize in crafting large, beautiful pots, but he wrote poems and included them by scratching them into the sides of the pots. In the back of this picture book Hill gives a short biography and quotes many of the poems found on the pottery. He says,
"Dave created his art in spite of a society that not only discouraged his brilliance but threatened him with death for expressing it."
The poem written by Hill as the text of this book is simple, clear description that rings with strength and beauty:

"On wet days,
heavy with rainwater,
it is cool and squishy,
mud pie heaven.

but to Dave
it was clay,
the plain and basic stuff
upon which he learned to
form a life
as a slave neraly two hundred years ago."
Perfectly complemented by Collier's gorgeous collage paintings, this book is breathtaking and offers an alternate view of the power of art and poetry in the face of humanity's greatest cruelty. I especially like how the illustrations include words hidden in the texture of the backgrounds and objects, such as the words "Live Life" meshed into the woodwork of the barn wall. The fabulous fold-out spread showing Dave's hands shaping a lump of clay into a pot is riveting. Children and adults alike will love this book and want to read and savor it over and over.

Links & awards:
School Library Journal interview with Laban Carrick Hill
New York Times review
New York Times Bestseller
2011 Caldecott Honor
2011 Coretta Scott King Gold Award for Illustrations
Chicago Public Library's 2010 Best of the Best List
New York Public Library's 2010 Best 100 Books of the Year
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2011

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Liz @ Liz in Ink. Go see what other poetry is being shared today!

Stop by here next week for the round up being held at A Wrung Sponge Friday, March 18. Enjoy your weekend!


Jone said...

I love this book. It was a NFPB CYBILS nominee. Thanks for sharing. Hope the job hunt has been going well.

Anonymous said...

I share this beautiful book with my students in Social Studies - the illustrations are gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful book, there is a poetry in the way the illustrations depict throwing the pots. It was a surprise to me when it got a Caldecott honor, I hadn't read it, but once I did I could see why it won. Beyond that, I think the poetry of the poet potter is fascinating.

Mary Lee said...

This is a GORGEOUS book, with a powerful story!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I ran my hands over this at NCTE and haven't had a chance to dig in since then. It's on my list to own. Thanks for the reminder. See also my poem, somewhat apropos, in Sylvia Vardell's column in the March issue of Book Links! ; )

get zapped said...

I'm delighted I found your blog. Thank you, this looks like a lovely story.

Sally said...

So glad you covered this book; I loved it, too.

Carlie said...

Ooo...This looks good! I may have to keep a look-out for it to read it to my boys!

Unknown said...

The book looks inspiring with a touch of history in it. I think I'll grab a copy of it.

laurasalas said...

I just read this book over the weekend--lovely!

I'm constantly amazed by the beauty humans create, whether on YouTube or on anonymous pottery...