What does it mean to shine a light in a world full of darkness? What does it mean to bring hope to the world through something as small as making pottery and writing poetry? These are the ideas rooted deep in the children’s book Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave.
This children’s book is not so much a story as it is a vision into who Dave was as an artist and poet. The reader gets to catch a glimpse of what the dirt, clay, and pots mean to Dave as a sculptor. We get a to witness the details of his process, and it feels like magic. We get to witness Dave etch poetry into his pots and create beauty through the written word.
While the text gives the book its weight and substance, the award winning illustrations bring it to life. Awarded the Caldecott Award and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2011, Bryan Collier’s illustrations for Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave set this book apart. Collier creates exquisite watercolor and collage compositions on 400lb Arches watercolor paper. This background paper that the text lies on is almost as beautiful as his collages. The aesthetic of the torn paper makes one want to reach out and touch the pages. Textures are beautiful, and the minute details take each page to the next level.
The illustrations captivate, and the themes of the book inspire. This book is an excellent way for young students to begin thinking about slavery in America in the mid 1800’s. There are so many questions that could be posed and researched by students. In addition, students can learn about the process of making pottery. They can discuss what makes someone a poet and what makes someone an artist. This intersection of a real man’s bondage and powerful art is filled with hope and should be discussed in schools and homes today.