Laban C.Hill has managed to pack quite a history lesson into this simple but eloquent picture book. Written as poetry, the text tells the story of Dave, an African American slave who lived in South Carolina in the early 19th century. Although slaves were not allowed to learn to read and write, Dave’s life is known through the dated rhymes he wrote on his pottery. His words not only describe his life, but give advice and express his own feelings and longings, such as one dated August 16, 1857: “I wonder where is all my relation; friendship to all–and, every nation.”
Dave clearly took his work seriously, for those of his pots that still exist are well made and attractive. He was one of the few potters who successfully made pots larger that could hold more than twenty gallons. Hill’s book explains the process by which mere dirt is transformed into a work of art in the hands of a skilled craftsman. Bryan Collier’s illustrations present a man who focused on the task at hand, took pride in his craft, and valued attention to detail. Young people can learn much about the value of work from this simple book.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.