Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

Book review by
Monica Mehta, Common Sense Media
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave Book Poster Image
Amazing award-winning historical story told in free verse.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the painstaking art of pottery, and all the work and craftsmanship that goes into it. If parents wish, they can also discuss the fact that Dave was a slave with their kids. An informative guide at the end of the book goes into Dave's life and poetry.

Positive Messages

The powerful yet subtle message of this story, as the illustrator Bryan Collier states in his dedication, is about "the power of the human spirit, artistry, and truth, and that cannot be silenced by bondage of any kind."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The book is about a real historical figure, Dave, who lived as a slave in South Carolina in the 1800s. Children and parents alike will find an inspirational role model in Dave, who carved poems and messages into the beautiful pots he created.

Violence & Scariness

Though the book is about a slave, the author and illustrator have not included any overt images or words about the brutal violence of slavery. Instead, images of shackles and chains, and of slaves picking cotton in the fields, remind the reader that Dave was a slave.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, when it comes down to it, this book is about a slave in 1800s America. As such, the subject matter might engender questions about slavery. However, the poetry and drawings of the book deal solely with Dave's artistry and craft, and parents can decide how much they want to discuss his life as a slave.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPottery May 6, 2011

Sanford Pottery Festival in Sanford, NC is the best!

DAVE THE POTTER is the best illustrated book! A pure book about poetry in motion. Pottery is poetry in motion. I loved the plot, the biography and the elemen... Continue reading
Parent Written byPitIggyMom February 25, 2011

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

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. The story, written in verse, focuses on his painstaking craft as he creates clay pots.

Is it any good?

It is difficult to convey the story of an artist slave in a picture book, but the author and illustrator succeed by focusing on the difficult, painstaking art of pottery. As kids get older, they will understand the historical significance of Dave's story and can delve into the final pages of the book, which present a guide to his life as well as resources for further reading. As such, the book celebrates, as the illustrator writes, "the power of the human spirit, artistry, and truth, and that cannot be silenced by bondage of any kind."  



This book was a 2011 Caldecott Honor book for its vivid, textured illustrations. On the surface they are about a potter; delve deeper and he creates his art against backdrops of slave life in 1800s America, from images of slaves working in fields to the hint of an owner's mansion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about art. What are the different types of art that people can create? Which medium do you like to work with most -- clay, paint, crayon, something else?

  • Some families can use the information in the back of the book to explore Dave's life. Who was Dave? In which conditions did he live? How does his life story make his art more significant?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love historical books

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