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Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  3,977 Ratings  ·  471 Reviews
To us
it is just dirt,
the ground we walk on...
But to Dave
it was clay,
the plain and basic stuff
upon which he formed a life
as 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
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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(showing 1-30)
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Aug 03, 2016 Melki rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, children
Bill O'Reilly, professional blowhard and wannabe historian, tells us that the slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” I sure hope ole Bill doesn't find out about Dave the potter, or he'll undoubtedly try to convince us that some slaves were lucky because they got to learn a trade. That right, Bill. Those were some lucky, lucky slaves!

Despite his captive status, Dave did manage to turn dirt into gold. (
Jan 24, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
I can understand why Laban Carrick Hill garnered the Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in this book. The rich, warm, earthy tones of the watercolor painting mixed with the depth achieved by the technique of collage make for effective and inviting pictures. I felt not that I was watching this man from a remote outside place, but rather that I was there, watching him work his magic with the clay. As if I were watching the reenactment of what the everyday life might have been like for ...more
Lisa Vegan
Feb 07, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all potters and artists; American history buffs; those interested in art history
Recommended to Lisa by: Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I’m blown away by the man, even with the many gaps in what is known about him, and this book is a fine tribute to him; I think the book does Dave justice, and so I am pleased.

Powerful true story, and I think I liked all the background information ever better than the story proper. I enjoyed the story, but the writing style might not have appealed to me when I was a child; I’m not certain.

The illustrations are absolutely riveting. I love how what’s going on in the background is shown. I love the
I am not capable of dealing with the whole verse non-fiction trend objectively, my dears. I don't get it, I never will! It's a factual book, it's SUPPOSED to give us details and context, not make us guess at meaning with metaphor, simile and generic imagery.

I had a much more enjoyable time reading the historical notes at the back of the book and looking at the one photo of Dave the Potter's actual work than I did reading the poem itself. The poem text is mostly about the process ANY potter uses
Beautifully simple, simply beautiful. Little known artist, poet, slave, brought to life through Hill's words and Collier's paintings. Hill's words, like Dave's are poetic, starting with his repetitive "To us . . . But for Dave. . . " to his use of one of Dave's poems to close. A fold-over page using a larger font size, announces our first few of the magic coming from Dave's hands. The creamy color of clay on Dave's dark hands make the hands, and their magic, stand out. There are few details of D ...more
Mar 06, 2015 Alysia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-book
This is a really interesting story. I love the artwork and the poems are nice and easy for a young reader. Dave is a skilled slave and this is a beautiful story that celebrates his artistry and talent.
Nov 19, 2010 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
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 ...more
Apr 10, 2017 Jasleen rated it it was amazing
As someone who didn't know who Dave was reading this book gave me a little bit of insight on who Dave was. I enjoyed the illustrations that this book has and the information that the author included at the end about Daves poetry. I think this book honors Daves artistry and talent.
Arretta Johnson
As I hold up a glazed piece of pottery shaped into a pitcher, I will ask the class, "Can anyone can tell me what this is and what it is made of?" After several answers are given, I will explain that I have a pitcher that was handed down to me from my grandmother to my mother and then to me. This pitcher was hand made and painted (not by my grandmother) many, many years ago and I was told my grandmother used it to hold hot chocolate. Then I would ask, "Who would like to explain to me your idea of ...more
Anna Garland
May 12, 2012 Anna Garland rated it it was amazing
Plot: Although this looks like a fictional book from its cover, Dave was a real person; a slave who lived in South Carolina in the 1800s. He was a potter who somehow learned to read and write, and inscribed many of his pots with whimsical short poems, and the date they were created. Although we do not know much about Dave’s life his work and writings make him a most inspirational character and teaches the young reader about the value art and the messages that it can carry. The story, written in ...more
Joanna Marple
Feb 15, 2012 Joanna Marple rated it it was amazing
Dave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living as a slave in South Carolina in the 1800s. A potter and a poet. This is story of strength (both spiritually and physically, for it is difficult to throw clay pots of the size and scope Dave made – 20 to 40 gallons) and creativity. It also présents the reader with a mystery, for so little is really know about Dave . . . how was he trained when so few slaves were? How did he learn to read? The artwork is beautiful, but the foldout picture o ...more
Adriana Villagomez
Jan 19, 2015 Adriana Villagomez rated it really liked it
Have you ever had the passion to do something but had some obstacles put in front of you? In a time that didn't allow a person of color to learn special skills, Dave the Potter was one of the few slaves that were able to learn this special skill, however, none were quite as good as he. Dave the Potter is a Biography and Poem about a slave from South Carolina. He was one of the few slaves who knew how to make pottery. It is set in the point of view of the author. This story details how Dave made ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Lauren rated it really liked it
This book, by Laban Carrick Hill, is narrative poem about a man named Dave who, for most of his life, was a slave. However, Dave has become more well-known recently for his contribution to American art. The pots he created were magnificent in their own right. However, the words he put onto the side of his pottery are what he is remembered for. Occasionally, he would put a short poem on a piece of pottery. For example, "Dave belongs to Mr. Miles/wher the oven bakes & the bot biles/// July 31, ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Samantha added it
Shelves: multicultural
Text-to-self: In high school, I took several pottery classes and enjoyed making pottery like Dave in the book. I know how difficult it can be to create well constructed pieces of pottery with modern technology. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been back then. He must have been a very skilled artist.

Remembering: Name two things Dave did in the process of making his pottery.
Understanding:What do you think the author meant when they said "Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat,
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This book is one of the 2011 Caldecott Honor books and a Coretta Scott King Award winner for its illustrations. Dave, for whom we have no last name, was a slave and a potter in South Carolina. We know of him primarily from his pots, upon which he inscribed short poems from time to time. What a clever way to immortalize oneself! Laban Carrick Hill takes us through the process Dave must have used to create his pots, while Bryan Collier illustrates it. We don't even know what Dave really looked lik ...more
Ch13_megan Carlisle
Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill is a Caldecott Honor Book. The book centers on Dave, a potter, poet and slave. It describes in great detail the steps that Dave went through to create his pots. At the end of the book the author gives a greater set of details regarding the life of Dave. He also includes many of the inscriptions that were found on Dave's pottery pieces.

The piece I most enjoyed about the book was the illustrations. The illustrator pastes images on a page in a fashion similar
Nancy Kotkin
Text: 3 stars
Illustrations: 5 stars

There is not a single fact about Dave's life (other than his being a slave), or the time period, until the supplemental information at the back of the book. I realize there is a movement towards very sparse text in picture books, but that can't really apply to nonfiction and biography, because we really need some information within the text for those books to work. In this case, how did Dave learn to read and write (since that was illegal for slaves and often p
Jun 25, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-lit
This book is a sweet remembrance to an important artist and poet in American history. The book takes children step by step through the process of making a piece of pottery with Dave. The words truly make the potter come to life as they describe his hands, motions and artistry used in creating each piece. This book would appeal to boys and girls from K-3rd grade. The words are challenging yet perfectly inviting for beginning readers. I would encourage teachers to share the story of Dave the Potte ...more
Sep 08, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating book. I recently watched an episode of "History Detectives" on PBS where one of the mysteries surrounded a face jar (also called an "ugly jar") from a pre-Civil War pottery in South Carolina. Although the researchers weren't able to discover who the potter was, they were able to find another piece that was obviously made by the same person. The jars were made to hold personal possessions, and as protection against evil spirits. What I found so touching is that the jars were of ...more
Mar 10, 2012 L12_danielle rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Laban Carrick Hill, author, and Bryan Collier, illustrator teamed up to produce a book beautiful, Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. This story tells of the life and amazing pottery of Dave, a 19th century slave from South Carolina.

There are several classroom applications for this wonderful story. Not only is the text itself worth focusing on, but the informational pages in the back of the book as well as the author and illustrator notes are a MUST read! This book creates many avenues to spar
Sep 22, 2011 528_Laura rated it really liked it
Dave the Potter describes the life and craft of an African American slave in South Carolina in the late 1800’s. The short and powerful text lines, describe the remarkable skill of this important potter and poet in American history. Within the pages, the author, Laban Carrick Hill includes the actual stanzas inscribed on many of Dave's pieces. The earth toned water colored illustrations emphasis the strength needed to mold and spin the large pots which Dave was famous for. Dave the Potter include ...more
You are going to want this book.

This is a rare story, beautifully told, illustrated with power, and it has ties to things that children can touch and do.

What, you want more?

Heh, just kidding. Of course you do. How about you want a story that will help educate children about the time when slavery was legal in the United States, that does not flinch from the tragic inequities of that period, but which nonetheless is not unremittingly bleak? A story that celebrates a person whose skill and artistry
Loved this! Makes me want to learn more about Dave the Potter. This could also have been called "Dave the Poet" or "Dave the Artist" - although I just now noticed that the subtitle takes care of that! I've enjoyed other books illustrated by Bryan Collier, but I think this is my favorite so far. For kids to understand the act of throwing a pot on a potter's wheel, though, I think they would need to have seen it in person or at least a video of it. The extra author information at the end is vital. ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The part that I liked the best was the end of the book where some of his original poems and messages were depicted, analyzed and explained. It was very interesting to know the reasoning behind some of his messages and what he was trying to tell people. I also really liked how the book explained how hard Dave had to work to create his pots. In this day and age, not a lot of younger children know that people had to make pots by hand and the amount of effort it took to p ...more
Apr 26, 2016 Bernadette rated it really liked it
Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave (2010), winner of multiple national book awards including a Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award, was written by Laban Carrick Hill and beautifully illustrated by Bryan Collier. The story is a lyrical portrayal of how Dave, a slave, refused to be defined or limited by life’s circumstances. “To us it is just a pot…but to Dave it was a pot large enough to store a season’s grain harvest…to hold memories.” An appropriate book for ages 6-10, children will surely ...more
Audience:K-2 Those interested in learning more about slavery or pottery.

Appeal:Great information about pottery. Beautiful pictures. As you examine the pictures you can see small details about slavery included in some pictures. Through a four-panel extended page you can see how a pot becomes a pot. In the back of the book you find biographical information about Dave and his poems as well as the Author's Note and Illustrator's Note.

2011 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner
May 17, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
A beautifully illustrated book, the author tells a story that is often unknown or overlooked. The author includes quite a bit of background knowledge after the story, which is an important part of appreciating the story of Dave the Potter; teachers and librarians should be sure to read this part carefully. Find a way to squeeze this book into Social Studies classes that are learning about slavery.
Jun 27, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
Audience: Primary grades, children who enjoy learning and seeing how art is made and those who are interested in learning about the lives of slaves
Appeal: The illustrations are what really draw you to this book. The illustrator has such wonderful use of shadow and the deepness to his pictures are very alluring.
Award: Coretta Scott King Book Award: 2012 Illustrator Award Winner
Jun 27, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
This book is a 2011 Coretts Scott King illustrator award winner. The audience this book appeals to would include boys and girls ages kindergarten through fourth grade. The book is appealing due to its story and its rich illustrations. The book is about a man who was a slave who became known for his as an artist in creating pottery and poetry.
Amy Porter
Jan 29, 2017 Amy Porter rated it really liked it
Shelves: kidlit
This is a very informative book about Dave. Dave was a slave who enjoyed poetry and pottery. He is recognized for the many things he potted and for his poems today. The book give in vivid detail how and what Dave used his pottery for. The illustrations were great and gave a very good representation of how Pottery can be made. (Coretta Winner)
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Riley Hoffart 1 6 Dec 08, 2011 12:39AM  
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