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Posts tagged ‘Art’

Dave the Potter – Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill

Dave the PotterDave the Potter tells the story of an African-American slave, born about 1800 in South Carolina. Much of Dave’s life remains a mystery, but the pottery he created helps tell some of his tale.

Dave lived in a time where slaves were not allowed to be educated, and slaves were punished severely if caught reading or writing. In his home state of South Carolina, an anti-literacy statute was upheld without question and slaves were routinely imprisoned or fined for displaying their knowledge of reading or writing.  For many years Dave wrote on his pots, sometimes just the initials of his owner, but also lines of poetry or details about the pot. In 1841, he stopped writing. During this period of more than sixteen years, he was silent, likely because of fear in displaying his knowledge. He began writing again in 1857. Some of his lines include:

I wonder where is all my relation

friendship to all — and, every nation

–August 16, 1857

put every bit all between

surely this Jar will hold 14

–July 12, 1834

The illustrations – the artwork of Bryan Collier – are simply amazing. They convey the dedication and masterful technique of Dave, his strength in creating jars that would hold more than forty gallons, and his attention to detail in creating and inscribing each individual piece of work. The illustrations convey his life as a slave and the nature of the world around him, with slaves picking cotton in the distance, working in the field, shanties, and a corner view of a slaveowners large mansion.  The illustrations are thought-provoking and moving. Not surprisingly, Dave the Potter is a 2011 Caldecott Honor Book, as well as the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award.

The story is told in a simple narrative, focusing on the process of creating a pot. The language is poetic and powerful, often with short lines that emphasize words that convey Dave’s craft and artistry while also displaying the world in which he lived, a world of slavery and injustice. Hill references his work as a “magician” who sees something in the dirt and clay that others do not.

Dave’s pottery can be seen today, on display in museums in South Carolina. For more about Dave, you can read information at SCIWAY and University of South Carolina, AikenPottery by Dave

Books for Pairing with Dave the Potter (Picture Books & Novels)

The Listeners by Gloria Whelan

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Freedom’s Fruit by William H. Hooks

Chains by Louise Halse Anderson

To Be A Slave by Julius Lester

Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

A Picture of Freedom: the Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859 by Patricia McKissack


What books about slavery and the quest for freedom have you read and enjoyed? Please share!

5 Beautiful Picture Books About Artists

5 Artist Picture Books

Diego Diegoby Jeanette Winter

Written by Jeanette Winter, this book will captivate you with illustrations and the story of Diego Rivera (in Spanish and English). The story is informative for all ages and conveys Diego Rivera’s celebration of Mexican culture and the people of his country. The story serves as an excellent introduction to his artwork and life. Older students can continue their research to delve more into his childhood and later, his move to Paris and back to Mexico, especially as this influenced his artwork. Students will learn about his murals as well as his passion for social justice.

VivaFridaViva Frida

by Yuyi Morales

Frida Kahlo, Mexico’s celebrated artist and passionate woman is seen through vivid language and poetry – all accompanied by lush, vibrant and colorful illustrations. The poem is told in both English and Spanish, and celebrates Frida with strong verbs and a style that evokes Frida’s artwork. The author’s note includes insight and her own connection to Frida Kahlo. This book is a great jumping off point for learning more about Frida’s life and artwork. (For another great picture book that will teach you more about Frida’s life, check out Frida by Jonah Winter).

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri RousseauFantastic Jungles of Henri Matisse by Michelle Markel

The jungles are living and breathing in the work of Rousseau. This is the story of a self-taught artist who persevered and followed his dream, only beginning to paint at the age of forty. The text is engaging and aptly bring life to the colorful illustrations – which immerse the reader in art just as Rousseau became immersed in his own paintings.  Adults will also appreciate the myriad of historical figures who appear in the illustrations and add depth to the picture book for older readers. Those who know about Rousseau will likely still find new details about his life and work, and children will be inspired by his dedication, perseverance and determination.

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri MatisseThe Iridescence of Birds by Patricia Maclachlan

Matisse is celebrated with beautiful illustrations inspired by his hometown and the French countryside. The cold, gray village is juxtaposed with light, color, patterns, paint and a home filled with opportunity for art. Young Henri and older Henri are both found in this story, and the reader can see the life story of the artist through the beautiful illustrations. Matisse’s family had pigeons and he would observe the birds, paying close attention how the light would change their colors as they moved – the iridescence of birds. You will also find author’s and illustrator’s notes which bring insight and thought to the story of Henri Matisse and the writing of this picture book.

My Name is GeorgiaMy Name is Georgia by Jeanette Winter

Flowers, nature, the American Southwest, sunset, the deserts of New Mexico. Georgia O’Keefe holds an important place as an American artist. This book appeals to readers of all ages, telling Georgia O’Keefe’s story in a first person narrative. Georgia, as a young girl, was unique in her dress, manners, and focus. At the age of twelve, she knew she would be an artist. With the support of her family she attended art school and forged her own path in the male-dominated art world. She painted the beauty of nature and landscape as she saw it, with her own unique perspective. The illustrations are lovely and will transport you to Georgia’s world. The biography is simple yet interesting. Readers will be intrigued and captivated by Georgia’s life and her intense passion for art.

Of course there are many wonderful picture biographies of artists – these are only five! What are your favorite picture books about artists?

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