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Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
For kids who love historical books
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