Cheng follows on the Caldecott Honor–winning Dave the Potter, by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier (2010), to further open up the fascinating life of the enslaved potter named Dave for children.
Records indicate Dave, who was born in the United States in 1801, was most likely purchased at a slave auction at age 17 by Harvey Drake, who, with his uncles, held the Pottersville Stoneware Manufactory in South Carolina. Dave took to the wheel within weeks and went on to become one of the most accomplished potters in the region. Cheng’s spare free-verse poems masterfully highlight the repeated hardships Dave endured: being relocated no fewer than four times when loaned or sold to a new owner; losing two wives when their owners forced them to move to different states; losing his leg after being hit by a train; and, in the face of severe anti-literacy laws designed to keep slaves down, bravely creating art that “etched in clay” his ability to read and write. Says Dave: “I am not afraid / to write on a jar / and fire it hot / so my word / can never be erased.” Combining visual art with poetry as Dave did, Cheng includes her own striking woodcuts, illustrating both Dave’s experiences and his artistry.
At once intimate and universal; the riveting story of an unforgettable life lived during an unbelievable time. (Verse biography. 9 & up)