Etched in Clay
Sometime around 1815, an enslaved young man named Dave was brought to Edgefield, South Carolina, the center of a pottery-producing area known for the alkaline glazes used on the stoneware. Dave was taught how to turn pots and jars on a pottery wheel by one of his first owners. As Dave's talent flourished, he created pieces of great beauty and often massive size. He also somehow learned to read and write, in spite of South Carolina's strongly-held fear of slave literacy. And then Dave did something even more incredible--he began to sign his jars and carve many of them with sayings and poems that reflected his daily life and experiences. He spoke out against slavery not by protesting or revolting, but by daring to write at all. Andrea Cheng has crafted a biography in verse as beautiful as one of Dave's jars. In simple, powerful words, including some of Dave's original writings, we learn his extraordinary story of courage, creative inspiration, and triumph.

Etched in Clay Details

TitleEtched in Clay
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 20th, 2013
PublisherLee & Low Books
ISBN-139781600604515
Rating
GenreBiography, Poetry, Nonfiction, Cultural, History, Childrens, Middle Grade, Art

Etched in Clay Review

  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    I was wondering how a book with over a hundred pages could possibly contain the life of Dave the Potter when so little is known about him. The answer is that the book is in poetry with lots and lots of white on each page. I wish the book had been footnoted or had a more extensive author note explaining where many pieces of information came from. For example, the author makes it sound as though Dave loved his wives dearly. Is this a known fact or just a guess? How do we know he taught his stepson I was wondering how a book with over a hundred pages could possibly contain the life of Dave the Potter when so little is known about him. The answer is that the book is in poetry with lots and lots of white on each page. I wish the book had been footnoted or had a more extensive author note explaining where many pieces of information came from. For example, the author makes it sound as though Dave loved his wives dearly. Is this a known fact or just a guess? How do we know he taught his stepsons how to read? I could go on and on. Another question I have is whether it is a fact that Dave was drunk when he lost his leg? While I can see the appropriateness of using poetry to tell Dave's story, I am frustrated because it simply leaves too much information out. Why the mystery about Stony Bluff, mentioned on the map? I think Ms. Cheng chose a creative way to present Dave's story. I just don't think it was as successful as it could have been. As long as we are using poetry in ways not thought about before, why can't the poems be footnoted in prose to explain where a piece of info came from? If you are going to make poetry serve the purpose of nonfiction, then you have an obligation, like any nonfiction writer, to explain where and why your facts are correct. Or if they are facts. I'd have given this a lower grade but the poems and woodcuts do convey a feeling for the times and are valuable as fiction to give a taste of what the times were like. While the book has a bibliography and Dave's work are expressly identified as his, I do wish more had been done to make this successful nonfiction. This format has potential but it is going to have to make concessions to the demands of proper nonfiction if used this way.
    more
  • Richie Partington
    January 1, 1970
    Richie's Picks: ETCHED IN CLAY: THE LIFE OF DAVE, ENSLAVED POTTER AND POET by Andrea Cheng, Lee & Low, January 2013, 144p., ISBN: 978-1-60060-451-5"As William Faulkner once wrote, 'The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past.' We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an Richie's Picks: ETCHED IN CLAY: THE LIFE OF DAVE, ENSLAVED POTTER AND POET by Andrea Cheng, Lee & Low, January 2013, 144p., ISBN: 978-1-60060-451-5"As William Faulkner once wrote, 'The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past.' We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow." -- Barack Obama, speech, "A More Perfect Union," March 18, 2008"But they're not yours, they are my ownAnd I am never broken"-- Jewel, "Hands"Dave, 1826"...I unbrick the door.Little John hands me the jarsone by one,warm and shiningin the rising sun.Doctor Landrum says, 'See that green?Have you seen a colorshimmer like that?'He holds my jar,the big one with the lipand glaze drippingdown the sides.'Now, that's a jar,'he says,forgetting it was mewho dug the clay,and centered the mound,and pushed my weightagainst the wheel,forgetting it was mewho rolled the clayfor the handlesthick and solid.See the thumbprints on the sides?Those are from my hands."Dave was a slave. He was purchased at age seventeen for business purposes and was taught the trade of pottery -- everything from digging the clay to throwing and glazing and firing the pots he created for his white owners. Dave was an artist, an extraordinary potter. And Dave, who learned to read and write, was also a poet who etched his short verses into the jars he crafted -- an extraordinarily dangerous thing for a slave to be doing, for it was against the law down there in South Carolina.A number of books have now been written about Dave who, two hundred years ago, would have been twelve or so."...And if some daythis jar cracks,my word will stay,etched in the shards."ETCHED IN CLAY is the story in verse of Dave's life in slavery (and just beyond). The book contains beautiful woodcut illustrations created by the author, and deep reddish-brown (clay colored) endpapers. It is a book that tells the very ugly story of what it was to be enslaved. Of having your wife sold away from you as if you were both livestock. Of longing and missing and one day marrying again. And then having that wife also sold away from you. Of being creative and innovative and successful, but having another reap the rewards of that creativity and innovation because somehow the white Christian folk of the day could perfect such amazing contortions of their minds and their hearts so as to see you as a depreciable business asset rather than a human being and artist.And, finally, of being an old man freed from bondage. Of having the luxury – like a human, rather than the family dog – of possessing a surname:David Drake, 1866"Go on the road,a one-legged old man,like me?No, my friend.But I beg you,please,wherever you go,look for my loved ones..."Richie Partington, MLISRichie's Picks http://[email protected] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_...http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/facult...
    more
  • Chris Holliman
    January 1, 1970
    The Story (in 5 sentences or less): Dave is a slave purchased by Harvey Drake in Augusta, Georgia in 1815. Harvey takes him to Pottersville, South Carolina and not only teaches him pottery, but also how to read. Over the span of years, Dave suffers greatly as his loved ones (including two wives) are sold away. Dave begins carving words and poems into some of his pottery, a small act of sedition and outlet for his grief.My Take: I wondered if this book would be able to measure up to the quality o The Story (in 5 sentences or less): Dave is a slave purchased by Harvey Drake in Augusta, Georgia in 1815. Harvey takes him to Pottersville, South Carolina and not only teaches him pottery, but also how to read. Over the span of years, Dave suffers greatly as his loved ones (including two wives) are sold away. Dave begins carving words and poems into some of his pottery, a small act of sedition and outlet for his grief.My Take: I wondered if this book would be able to measure up to the quality of the Caldecott Honor book “Dave the Potter;” I believe that it does. Written in short chapters of verse in 1st person, the poetry is never intrusive or self conscious, but rather breathes real life into the characters. The poems are lean and spare, but sketch out the characters enough so that we grieve at the tragedies in Dave’s life. I’d recommend this book to readers ages 11+ who are interested in knowing what being a slave feels like. An appendix explains the life and times of Dave from an historical perspective.
    more
  • Kelsee Palmer
    January 1, 1970
    Etched in Clay is a story written in poetry about a slave who was an amazing potter and poet himself. The poetry illustrates his life as a slave and the struggles he faced through many different story tellers including his two wives, his owners, and himself. I think this book is best taught to either 4th or 5th graders. If I were to use this book in my classroom the most obvious way would be to introduce poetry. This book would help students realize that they can tell an amazing story with just Etched in Clay is a story written in poetry about a slave who was an amazing potter and poet himself. The poetry illustrates his life as a slave and the struggles he faced through many different story tellers including his two wives, his owners, and himself. I think this book is best taught to either 4th or 5th graders. If I were to use this book in my classroom the most obvious way would be to introduce poetry. This book would help students realize that they can tell an amazing story with just a few words; you just have to choose the right ones. Another way that I could use this book is to focus on how Dave viewed writing. He always spoke about how he was filled with words and phrases, but he was forbidden do write them down. I think students will realize how powerful and important writing and words really are. This will hopefully encourage them to take advantage of the education they have. In the book each of the poems are written from a different characters perspective. I could ask students to write a few of their own poems that tell a story from their life. They could write one from the perspective of their parents or siblings or friends or any other loved ones. This is a wow book for me because poetry has never really caught my attention. Sometimes I feel that it is hard to interpret. This book is easily interpreted. The story is clear but meaningful. I think students will love this just as much as any other novel. Another reason that I love this book is that it represents how incredible the ability to write really is. One of the poems from the perspective of Harvey Drake called "Our Conscience" ends with the line, "Indeed, writing is a weapon." I think that is so crucial to realize, especially as a young student.
    more
  • Fumi Agboola
    January 1, 1970
    POETRY: This poetry chapter book is great option for teaching 3rd-6th grade. I read this book online. The book tells the story of Dave, an enslaved man who lived in Edgefield, South Carolina. Dave was taught how to make pottery by his first owner, and starts creating pieces of art. In addition to learning how to make pottery, he learned how to rad and write, so he started signing his pieces and writing poetry about his experiences. I would use this story in my classroom becasue it does two thing POETRY: This poetry chapter book is great option for teaching 3rd-6th grade. I read this book online. The book tells the story of Dave, an enslaved man who lived in Edgefield, South Carolina. Dave was taught how to make pottery by his first owner, and starts creating pieces of art. In addition to learning how to make pottery, he learned how to rad and write, so he started signing his pieces and writing poetry about his experiences. I would use this story in my classroom becasue it does two things: Illustrate the expereience of a slave during the 19th century and it can be intergrated with language arts. This is a great opportunity for student to learn about the major structural components of poems, and understand litrary terms used, such as imagery and symbolisim. This is a WOW book because the content of the book can make for great discussion with students, particularly for 5th and 6th graders.
    more
  • Alex (not a dude) Baugh
    January 1, 1970
    A few years ago, we met Dave in Labab Carrick Hill's wonderful picture book Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This year, we meet Dave again in Andrea Cheng's new verse novel for middle graders.In Etched in Clay, Cheng imagines Dave's life from the day he was bought for $500. at auction as a strong, intelligent young man approximately 17 years old. He was bought in 1815 by Harvey Drake as a slave to help dig up clay for the Potterville Stoneware Manufactory, a bu A few years ago, we met Dave in Labab Carrick Hill's wonderful picture book Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This year, we meet Dave again in Andrea Cheng's new verse novel for middle graders.In Etched in Clay, Cheng imagines Dave's life from the day he was bought for $500. at auction as a strong, intelligent young man approximately 17 years old. He was bought in 1815 by Harvey Drake as a slave to help dig up clay for the Potterville Stoneware Manufactory, a business founded by relatives Abner and Amos Landrum. Drake, now a partner in the business, gives the new slave the name Dave. One day, while watching Master Drake turning a pot, Dave is asked if he would like to learn how to do it. Dave turns out to be a quick learner and an imaginative artisan, displaying more talent than most in throwing, shaping and glazing good looking saleable clay pots and jars. And he enjoys creating different kinds in various sizes for different uses.One day, Drake's wife Sarah, a religious woman, tells her husband to give Dave a spelling book to help in learn to read, so he may read the Scriptures and be saved. Defying the law against it, Dave does learn to read as well as write and soon he is etching his name on the pots and jars he creates. Later, he begins to write short verses on them. Even when he is told to stop do this, Dave defies the order and continues to express himself.Dave's own life isn't quite as satisfying as his life as a potter. Because he is property, he has no freedom. He is bought and sold several times to various members of the Drake and Landrum family. His first wife Eliza is sold despite his begging to spare her. His second wife is taken away to live elsewhere, and even the young stepsons he has grown to love are sold. And one night, Dave got so drunk, he laid on the railroad tracks to rest and lost a leg when the train ran over it, saving him from being moved to Louisiana, but making other things more difficult to do. Etched in Clay is the story of Dave's life as Cheng imagined it to be like based on what little known facts there are about this gifted potter and his exquisite pottery, often using the very words Dave etched in clay to piece it together. It is written in a series of spare free verse poems from the perspective of not only Dave but of every important person in his life, creating not just Dave's biography but giving the reader a more rounded sense of what his life really might have been like:Someday the world will readmy word etched in clayon the side of this jarand know about the shacklesaround out legsand the whipsupon our backs.I am not afraidto write on a jarand fire it hotso my word.can never be erased (pg 63-64)Not only did Cheng write the poems in Etched in Clay, but she has also created brilliant woodcuts to illustrate them. The simple black and white woodcuts, a common form of graphic illustration in the 19th century, have a rather primitive folk art feel to them reflecting the crude conditions in which the slaves were forced to live.Cheng has included a map of South Carolina showing places relevant to Dave's life and a short who's who of the different narrators used in the book as well as an afterward, history of Edgefield Pottery (one of the places Dave made pots and jars), some of Dave's poems and a list of sources used.Etched in Clay is an unforgettable, inspiring story of a quiet rebel and artisan that is not to be missed.This book is recommended for readers age 10+This book was borrowed from the NYPLThis review was originally published at Randomly Reading
    more
  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng is for older readers (Publisher Lee & Low suggests grade 5 and up). In this book, the author imagines Dave’s personal history in verse form, occasionally illustrated by handmade woodcuts also by the author.I found the story as told by this author absolutely devastating, although I don’t know if younger readers would feel, as strongly as I did, the pain of the injustice and loss suffered by Dave. There is this etching, Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng is for older readers (Publisher Lee & Low suggests grade 5 and up). In this book, the author imagines Dave’s personal history in verse form, occasionally illustrated by handmade woodcuts also by the author.I found the story as told by this author absolutely devastating, although I don’t know if younger readers would feel, as strongly as I did, the pain of the injustice and loss suffered by Dave. There is this etching, for example, from one of Dave’s pots:I wonder where is all my relationfriendship to all – and, every nation"August 16, 1857In fact, however, I imagine that most readers will take away an appreciation of Dave’s triumph over adversity through his courageous insistence on showing the world that, although a slave, he could create, and he could write, and he could be so good at it that he could get away with it.
    more
  • Stephanie Tournas
    January 1, 1970
    This is “a narrative biography, told in verse, with some imagined scenes, people, thoughts and dialogue.” This is as close as we are likely to get to understanding the life of Dave, a slave bought and sold many times in 19th century South Carolina. Living through the sale of wives and stepchildren, through different masters, Dave nevertheless was highly valued for his pottery skills. We mainly know of him through the few words that are etched on his surviving pots, despite the fact that he riske This is “a narrative biography, told in verse, with some imagined scenes, people, thoughts and dialogue.” This is as close as we are likely to get to understanding the life of Dave, a slave bought and sold many times in 19th century South Carolina. Living through the sale of wives and stepchildren, through different masters, Dave nevertheless was highly valued for his pottery skills. We mainly know of him through the few words that are etched on his surviving pots, despite the fact that he risked maiming or death to have written them. Moving poetic prose fills in gaps as to what life may have been like for Dave, or for any of a number of skilled and enslaved crafts people from the time. Spare black and white woodcuts complement the spare but emotionally alive text. Includes sources.
    more
  • Charlene
    January 1, 1970
    An impressive life, of an enslaved artist who created beautiful utilitarian jugs and jars, sometimes signing them, sometimes adding bits of poetry when that was an act of high rebellion . . . slaves were forbidden literacy. Story told through verses, with different voices (more of Dave's than of others but we do get perspective of his wives, of his owners, etc.). The author also does beautiful woodcut illustrations for the poems. The author talks about her research and lists her sources at the An impressive life, of an enslaved artist who created beautiful utilitarian jugs and jars, sometimes signing them, sometimes adding bits of poetry when that was an act of high rebellion . . . slaves were forbidden literacy. Story told through verses, with different voices (more of Dave's than of others but we do get perspective of his wives, of his owners, etc.). The author also does beautiful woodcut illustrations for the poems. The author talks about her research and lists her sources at the end of the book but I wish there had been specifics -- what evidence is there for the events in the poem? Is it really known how Dave lost a leg? So hard to know facts about a life from 150+ years ago, particularly a slave's life. Book probably aimed at middle schoolers but rewarding to all ages.
    more
  • Sara Patterson
    January 1, 1970
    This book is written in verse with most poems being only one or two pages long. The language is simple enough for young readers. I also love how there are several wood cut printings throughout that act as both illustration and as a way to connect the literature with art. This could also be a good piece of literature to discuss emotions, point of view (each poem is written by a different character), and theme.
    more
  • Kbutler
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful subject, great writing but awful cover. I'm afraid not a single one of my middle school students will pick this up because of the cover. I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover but we all do especially middle schoolers.
  • Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful story about a slave named Dave who was taught how to create pottery and read and write. There is also a picture book about Dave the Potter!
  • Rani
    January 1, 1970
    Deep poems of #slave #artist #Potter Dave. #mustread #biography
  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    A perfect pairing with Dave the Potter, the picture book by Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier, this novel in verse is riveting and heart-wrenching. The man who became known as Dave the Potter, later took the name David Drake for his own, and spent most of his life as a slave in South Carolina. When his first master, Harvey Drake, realizes that Dave has an affinity for the potter's wheel on which he shapes beautiful, enormous jars and other vessels, he puts him to work there. Dave's talent out A perfect pairing with Dave the Potter, the picture book by Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier, this novel in verse is riveting and heart-wrenching. The man who became known as Dave the Potter, later took the name David Drake for his own, and spent most of his life as a slave in South Carolina. When his first master, Harvey Drake, realizes that Dave has an affinity for the potter's wheel on which he shapes beautiful, enormous jars and other vessels, he puts him to work there. Dave's talent outstrips that of those around him, and he watches in dismay as others take credit for his work, "forgetting it was me / who rolled the clay / for the handles / thick and solid. / See the thumbprints / on the sides? / Those are from my hands" (p. 30). Because she wants him to learn to read the Bible, Sarah Drake, his master's wife, insists that he be taught to read. Dave is a fast learner, and quickly graduates from letters and one- and two-syllable words "to the long words / that I love best: / mag-nan-i-mous, / sa-gac-i-ty, / se-ver-i-ty" (p. 37). Even while Dave is pouring his heart out in his pottery, he is enduring great losses. His wife, Eliza, is sold to another plantation far away, and he begins composing verses in his head: "All day long / I'm turning pots and jars / on the potter's wheel / while my words and verses / swirl in my head. / But what's a verse / if it can't be read?// Someday / I'll write down verses of my own / and sign my name: / Dave" (p. 52). As small slave revolts horrify the South's politicians and political leaders, South Carolina passes laws that forbid slave literacy. Dave has begun recording some of his writing on the pots he creates, and he reflects, "Someday the world will read / my word etched in clay / on the side of this jar / and know about the shackles / around our legs / and the whips / upon our backs. / I am not afraid / to write on a jar / and fire it hot / so my word / can never be erased" (p. 63-64). When his second wife and her two children are sold and move to Louisiana, again, Dave is left alone without even the comfort of written words to sustain him due to the state's antiliteracy laws. The words he ponders while not being able to write them down struck a powerful chord within me as he thinks, "In my head, / I cannot stop the words from flowing: / lamentable, / philanthropic, / disenfranchised, / vulnerable. / But I don't write them down, / and the words float away / like twigs in a stream, / stuck on a rock / for a moment / and then gone" (p. 95). As I read many of the words Dave collected, words like these four, I thought how perfectly he chose words to fit his situation and how brave he was to continue to write, even if only in his head. Years later, in the possession of another master, as he fashions another jar, "Then the words / start flowing in my head. / Once again / I pick up a writing stick. / Can I remember / how to form a J? / The clay is waiting, / and the memory is in my hands: / Just a mammoth Jar... / is all I write. / For now / that is enough" (p. 107). Since the author has included some of the words and poems that Dave wrote, the story has poignancy and immediacy and shows the determination of this man to be heard and to be remembered. While heart-breaking, his story, told in alternating points of view, is a vivid example of one man's ability to endure and to leave his mark. Readers will not soon forget Dave.
    more
  • Rachael
    January 1, 1970
    We know comparatively little about the life of Dave, the enslaved potter. We know roughly when he was born (around 1801), when he died (around 1870), and where he lived (South Carolina). We know that he lost a leg when he was about 35 years old, and that he was a skilled potter whose works were (and are still) prized by collectors. Most notably, we know that he could read and write, because he carved his name and some short poems into the clay of his own pots. In a series of dramatic monologues, We know comparatively little about the life of Dave, the enslaved potter. We know roughly when he was born (around 1801), when he died (around 1870), and where he lived (South Carolina). We know that he lost a leg when he was about 35 years old, and that he was a skilled potter whose works were (and are still) prized by collectors. Most notably, we know that he could read and write, because he carved his name and some short poems into the clay of his own pots. In a series of dramatic monologues, Andrea Cheng fleshes out these sparse details and shapes them into a poignant glimpse into the world of this remarkable artisan and poet. Writing from multiple perspectives, she gives the reader a panoramic view of the social and political realities that circumscribed the life of an enslaved man in 19th century South Carolina. In understated verse, she recreates the key moments of Dave's life, including enough sensory imagery to anchor the story without bogging it down in detail. Woodcut illustrations, also by Cheng, mesh well with the plainspoken text. Overall, Etched in Clay is an effective and engaging verse biography. It is worth noting that Cheng takes a completely different approach than Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier did in their 2011 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Dave the Potter. Where Hill and Collier focused narrowly on Dave's work as a potter, Cheng attempts to paint a much broader portrait of the man and his times. It's an ambitious tactic, and one that leads to some pitfalls. My biggest issue with multiple-perspective verse novels is how damnably hard it can be to distinguish among the speakers, and Etched in Clay is no exception. Without contextual clues, I think I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Dave and any of the other characters. Part of the problem is Cheng's decision to standardize the language for modern readers. It works well in practical terms, but since everyone is speaking modern American English, they all end up sounding the same. That creates a jarring contrast with the snippets she includes of Dave's own rough, lyrical poetry. My other issue is with the inclusion of historical background. It's very difficult to throw in details about law and social norms within the confines of a dramatic monologue, without turning it into an instance of As You Know, Bob. That leads to clunkers like the following: "Just be forewarned / while allowing our slaves / to read is our duty / teaching them to write / is punishable / by South Carolina law." These are relatively minor quibbles, but they will probably keep Etched in Clay from attaining the status of "most distinguished" for me. I will surprised, however, if we don't see this one on the Notables list at the very least.
    more
  • Amy Rae
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those books you feel terrible about giving a mediocre rating, but it sort of begs for one.The subject matter--the potter Dave, who was born a slave, died a free man, and wrote Burma Shave-esque poetry on his beautifully made pottery in between--is fascinating, as well as a subject I wasn't familiar with before this book came out. His life is absolutely inspiring and worthy of receiving greater recognition. But Cheng's poetry feels less like poetry and more like paragraphs that som This is one of those books you feel terrible about giving a mediocre rating, but it sort of begs for one.The subject matter--the potter Dave, who was born a slave, died a free man, and wrote Burma Shave-esque poetry on his beautifully made pottery in between--is fascinating, as well as a subject I wasn't familiar with before this book came out. His life is absolutely inspiring and worthy of receiving greater recognition. But Cheng's poetry feels less like poetry and more like paragraphs that someone hit the Enter key on every few words. The broad cast of characters is difficult to differentiate (and worse, the ebook opens at the first poem, skipping the dramatis personae!), because they all have very similar diction, and the story doesn't feel nearly as immediate as it should. A few poems get their points across, like the one in which (view spoiler)[Dave encounters a fellow slave who has committed suicide (hide spoiler)], but many feel like rote explanations of events.If anything, the nonfiction prose explanations at the back were much more engaging. I wonder if a short nonfiction book, like Walter Dean Myers' At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, would have been a better way of presenting the subject.Additionally, while the woodblock illustrations are beautiful and evocative, the cover is ugly and dated, and I can't see it drawing readers in. It seriously looks like a textbook from the 1980s to me. I think this book could read aloud as monologues by students, and that could potentially be interesting and enjoyable. But it's not one of the better novels in verse I've read, and I was really disappointed in the execution of an idea that, in theory, is so worthy.
    more
  • Tasha
    January 1, 1970
    Told in virtuoso verse, this is the true story of the life of Dave, an enslaved potter who lived in the years before and after Emancipation. Dave was an artist, most likely making over a thousand pieces of pottery in his lifetime of work of which only 170 survive today. He inscribed some of his pieces with either his own name, his master’s name and also poetry that he wrote, brief verses that offer a glimpse into his world. The amount of bravery that small act took is monumental, since Dave face Told in virtuoso verse, this is the true story of the life of Dave, an enslaved potter who lived in the years before and after Emancipation. Dave was an artist, most likely making over a thousand pieces of pottery in his lifetime of work of which only 170 survive today. He inscribed some of his pieces with either his own name, his master’s name and also poetry that he wrote, brief verses that offer a glimpse into his world. The amount of bravery that small act took is monumental, since Dave faced potential death because he was demonstrating his ability to read and write in a time when it was forbidden for slaves in South Carolina to do so. Dave serves both as an example of the injustice and brutality of slavery and also as a remarkable example of the artistry and strength of human beings. Cheng tells Dave’s story in very short poems. They are not all in Dave’s voice, sometimes instead being in the voice of his owners, his wife, or his children. Cheng does not soften the harshness of slavery, offering poems that speak directly to the separation of families through selling them apart and the brutality of the punishments inflicted. I would not call it unflinching, because one can sense Cheng flinching alongside the reader as she captures the moment but also makes it completely human and important. Cheng also did the woodcuts that accompany the poetry. They are a harmonious combination with the subject matter thanks to their rough edges and hand-hewn feel. Done only in black and white, they share the same powerful message as the poems.This powerful book informs middle grade readers about a man who could have been one of the many lost faces of slavery but who through art and bravery had a voice. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
    more
  • Daniel
    January 1, 1970
    Yes!I will admit to a small bias against poetry.  Despite studying it, writing it, promoting it, I've always had a hard time getting excited about reading poetry.  So when I flipped this open and saw it was in verse, there was a momentary pause, I put it down and came back to it later.  And I'm very glad that I returned to this!In free verse, this tells the story of the slave, known as "Dave," purchased in 1815.  His owner, Harvey Drake, is a potter and he teaches Dave the art of pottery.  Harve Yes!I will admit to a small bias against poetry.  Despite studying it, writing it, promoting it, I've always had a hard time getting excited about reading poetry.  So when I flipped this open and saw it was in verse, there was a momentary pause, I put it down and came back to it later.  And I'm very glad that I returned to this!In free verse, this tells the story of the slave, known as "Dave," purchased in 1815.  His owner, Harvey Drake, is a potter and he teaches Dave the art of pottery.  Harvey also happens to violate the law, and teaches Dave to read and write as well.  Dave becomes an expert potter, often marking his pots with bits of writing.Despite the short, free verse poems, we manage to learn a lot about what it's like to be a slave (having wives sold and sent away; the dangers of knowing too much; etc) and about life in the 1800's and about pottery.  It's quite remarkable how much I picked up in this brief volume targeted toward elementary school readers.  The writing captures a mood and tone of the era quite well.I finished the book, feeling richer for what I learned, but also wanting to know more about pottery at this time, slavery and the fight for freedom, and the region in which this clay was found and turned in to pottery.  Wanting to learn more is always good (provided it's not because we didn't learn anything).Looking for a good book?  This is all-around a fantastic, quick read.  Aimed at young readers, adults should feel enriched after reading it to their children.This review originally published in the blog Looking For a Good Book.
    more
  • Julie Pickett
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fascinating story told in free verse. It is a quick yet powerful read that will open children's eyes to the cruelty of slavery and to the bravery of those held in captivity. Author Andrea Cheng follows on the Caldecott Honor-winning book Dave the Potter, by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier (2010), to further open up the fascinating life of the enslaved potter known simply as Dave. Records indicate Dave, who was born in the United States in 1801, was most likely purch This is a fascinating story told in free verse. It is a quick yet powerful read that will open children's eyes to the cruelty of slavery and to the bravery of those held in captivity. Author Andrea Cheng follows on the Caldecott Honor-winning book Dave the Potter, by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier (2010), to further open up the fascinating life of the enslaved potter known simply as Dave. 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. (Kirkus review)
    more
  • Glenn Jacobson
    January 1, 1970
    After recently finishing the Poet Slave of Cuba I had high expectations for this book, which were happily met. The concept of story telling in free verse from different perspectives was again a winning combination to tell the story of a skilled man who was the best at his trade, and a slave. The story recalls the long and troubled life of a skilled man kept down by slavery.His name, Dave was given to him by his master. He can’t remember his real name, but recalls the voice of his mother before s After recently finishing the Poet Slave of Cuba I had high expectations for this book, which were happily met. The concept of story telling in free verse from different perspectives was again a winning combination to tell the story of a skilled man who was the best at his trade, and a slave. The story recalls the long and troubled life of a skilled man kept down by slavery.His name, Dave was given to him by his master. He can’t remember his real name, but recalls the voice of his mother before she was taken away. Later his master gives him a lesson in turning a pot on the wheel, and he discovers his natural talent for creating pottery. Filled with hope and perseverance Dave suffers the challenge of losing wives and children as he and his family are bought and sold by different masters. He even loses a leg, so the master purchases a slave with crippled arms and strong legs to turn the wheel for Dave. To challenge the laws against teaching slaves to read and write Dave begins to sign his work and includes poetry and inscriptions on his pottery. His hope pays off and he survives through the end of the war to see his own freedom.The afterward included a fair amount of background information on Edgefield Pottery. There is even a picture of one of Dave’s jars and a list of some of his inscriptions. The woodcuts, also done by the author, are a perfect compliment to the rustic and raw verse that they accompany. I would recommend this book to anybody who has an interest in American History despite his or her fondness of poetry.
    more
  • Janet Frost
    January 1, 1970
    This deceptively simple book brought to life the story of Dave, a slave potter and poet. With succinct verse and poignant woodcut illustrations Andrea Cheng gives us a novel disguised as a historical fiction, biography and poetry. This lovely little book shoulders a serious job. There are periods of history that open a universal window into the courage and power of the human spirit. Two that immediately come to mind are slavery in America and the Holocaust. Dave, our potter in this story, suffe This deceptively simple book brought to life the story of Dave, a slave potter and poet. With succinct verse and poignant woodcut illustrations Andrea Cheng gives us a novel disguised as a historical fiction, biography and poetry. This lovely little book shoulders a serious job. There are periods of history that open a universal window into the courage and power of the human spirit. Two that immediately come to mind are slavery in America and the Holocaust. Dave, our potter in this story, suffers the indignity of being owned and sold, he experiences the pain of losing loved ones to the caprice of white owners selling them, he struggles against the injustice of laws that protect this evil institution. Dave's spirit is so strong and determined that he cannot help but express his creativity in both writing and his pottery. Despite the immense personal risk, Dave creates renowned pottery and inscribes them for posterity to know he existed. The author describes the power of literacy this way:"Writing is a dangerous tool. A slave who writes might forge a pass to freedom or conspire with others to organize a revolt. Indeed, writing is a weapon."Oh the things I could do with this in a classroom study of poetry, historical-fiction, slavery, etc.
    more
  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    This historical novel in verse follows the real life story of Dave, who made pottery for the Pottersville Stoneware company. He was very talented at what he did, and also learned to read and write, even putting words on some of his pottery even though slaves were not allowed to be literate. His life was difficult-- his wives were sold away from him, he lost his leg in an accident, and he was sold several times because his masters didn't make wills. The poems are all dated, so we can see the prog This historical novel in verse follows the real life story of Dave, who made pottery for the Pottersville Stoneware company. He was very talented at what he did, and also learned to read and write, even putting words on some of his pottery even though slaves were not allowed to be literate. His life was difficult-- his wives were sold away from him, he lost his leg in an accident, and he was sold several times because his masters didn't make wills. The poems are all dated, so we can see the progression of events, and are told from the point of view of quite a few historical characters. The book is illustrated with wood cut prints by the author.Strengths: This is one of the better written novels in verse I have read-- the poems hold together individually and also read like poems instead of chopped up prose. I liked how each one was dated. This was shelved in the nonfiction area of my library, but I think the story is definitely a fictionalized account.Weaknesses: Novels in verse are almost impossible to get my students to read, and since historical fiction is also something that they tend to shy away from, I won't be buying this.
    more
  • Jessie
    January 1, 1970
    This book had a very interesting concept. An homage to Dave was a nice idea and I think it succeeded in that. I do however, think it falls short of being a brilliant work of art in its own right. The poems were not all that artistic in my opinion. They told a story through different voices but I didn't hear the different voices because it was all in too-similar a style of poetry. It was a bit repetitive in its language and actions (a lot of pottery-making and not much else). Please keep in mind This book had a very interesting concept. An homage to Dave was a nice idea and I think it succeeded in that. I do however, think it falls short of being a brilliant work of art in its own right. The poems were not all that artistic in my opinion. They told a story through different voices but I didn't hear the different voices because it was all in too-similar a style of poetry. It was a bit repetitive in its language and actions (a lot of pottery-making and not much else). Please keep in mind that I am a visual artist and very happy to read about art making all day long. I felt it skipped over the horrors of being a slave which granted, would be a challenging subject to deal with for this age group. ***SPOILER ALERT*** A woman slave hangs herself (startlingly harsh considering very little else happens in the book) and the civil war is breezed over in one poem. The parts that should have been hugely impacting I couldn't get into – the format distanced me from the dramatic impact it could have had.As for the woodcuts, I thought they were nice and I appreciated them more in the beginning of the book. Eventually they appeared crude to me, un-detailed and rather basic.
    more
  • Randi Goodnight
    January 1, 1970
    Etched in Clay is about an actual enslaved African American, who learned pottery, and how to read and write in a time where slave literacy was outlawed. While Dave was an actual slave who etched small poems into his pots about his daily life, I am unsure of how accurate the poems are that are supposedly written by him and about him. Etched in Clay also does not clearly define what is going on around Dave at the time, and just barely touches on slave trade markets and the Civil War. After a slow Etched in Clay is about an actual enslaved African American, who learned pottery, and how to read and write in a time where slave literacy was outlawed. While Dave was an actual slave who etched small poems into his pots about his daily life, I am unsure of how accurate the poems are that are supposedly written by him and about him. Etched in Clay also does not clearly define what is going on around Dave at the time, and just barely touches on slave trade markets and the Civil War. After a slow start to reading this book, I really began to enjoy it. The book needs some background information to help it make more sense, and has some complicated wording so I would not recommend this book for younger readers. In the classroom I would use this book for both history and multicultural units. I would also use this book for a poetry unit. The poetry is narrative, so I would have the children create a narrative poem based on their life.Cheng, A. (2013). Etched in Clay: the life of Dave, enslaved potter and poet. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books Inc.
    more
  • Sandy Brehl
    January 1, 1970
    Reading DAVE THE POTTER several years was my introduction to the life of a man who was a remarkably gifted artist and an intelligent survivor of pre- and -post- Civil War slavery. In this book the combination of powerful woodcut art and free-verse voices reflect the varied events and individuals who shaped Dave's life. Their impact was every bit as real as if their hands had molded the clay of his being, and yet he exerted his own molding influence in knowing what, at its core, made him who he w Reading DAVE THE POTTER several years was my introduction to the life of a man who was a remarkably gifted artist and an intelligent survivor of pre- and -post- Civil War slavery. In this book the combination of powerful woodcut art and free-verse voices reflect the varied events and individuals who shaped Dave's life. Their impact was every bit as real as if their hands had molded the clay of his being, and yet he exerted his own molding influence in knowing what, at its core, made him who he was.I found his life AFTER the war/freedom a deeply unsettling confirmation of facts reported in GIVE US THE BALLOT, that his literate life was more limited post-Civil War by unwritten forces (Klu Klux Klan and others) than it had been prior to emancipation.With well-cited resources at the back I suspect other readers will want to do as I do, to explore further the life and times of this remarkable artist.
    more
  • Christina
    January 1, 1970
    Written in verse, this beautifully written book tells the story of Dave the potter's life as a slave, learning to make pottery, and how he was married twice, only to be separated from his wives when they were sold to other owners. It's a heartwrenching story, and the poems put us in his head, as well as giving us the point of view of others who knew Dave. Not much detail is known about him, so this is very fictionalized, but the author gives a nice list of "characters" in the beginning, of owner Written in verse, this beautifully written book tells the story of Dave the potter's life as a slave, learning to make pottery, and how he was married twice, only to be separated from his wives when they were sold to other owners. It's a heartwrenching story, and the poems put us in his head, as well as giving us the point of view of others who knew Dave. Not much detail is known about him, so this is very fictionalized, but the author gives a nice list of "characters" in the beginning, of owners and slaves and what is known about them. The illustrations are by the author, lovely woodcuts. The writing incorporates actual poems and inscriptions that Dave put on his pots, which is partly how we know what we do about his life. Fascinating stuff. See also the gorgeous picture book, Dave The Potter.
    more
  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    Dave was a lucky slave, at least as much as there could be such a thing. Dave was owned by pottery-makers. The owners quickly learned that Dave had a special talent for making their wares. As the business transitioned from one family member to another, Dave went with the business. His wives and children were sold off, but he was always retained due to his skills. Dave also learned to read and write, which was quite dangerous for a slave to know. He was proud of his accomplishments and began to c Dave was a lucky slave, at least as much as there could be such a thing. Dave was owned by pottery-makers. The owners quickly learned that Dave had a special talent for making their wares. As the business transitioned from one family member to another, Dave went with the business. His wives and children were sold off, but he was always retained due to his skills. Dave also learned to read and write, which was quite dangerous for a slave to know. He was proud of his accomplishments and began to carve little rhymes and statements or just his autograph into his pieces of pottery despite the threat of losing a finger. Dave's inspiring story is told through poems in his own voice or various others in his life. The author also did the gorgeous woodcuts that add to the mood of the book.
    more
  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    In 1818, he is simply known as Dave, a young slave who is brought to Edgefield, South Carolina to work at the Pottersville Stoneware Manufactory. When he is introduced to the pottery wheel at a young age, it becomes quite clear that he has a natural talent for throwing clay. As he ages Dave comes to love pottery and wants to take ownership of his work. He has been able to teach himself to read and write. But Dave was a slave and it was illegal for slaves to know how to read and write. Pottery cr In 1818, he is simply known as Dave, a young slave who is brought to Edgefield, South Carolina to work at the Pottersville Stoneware Manufactory. When he is introduced to the pottery wheel at a young age, it becomes quite clear that he has a natural talent for throwing clay. As he ages Dave comes to love pottery and wants to take ownership of his work. He has been able to teach himself to read and write. But Dave was a slave and it was illegal for slaves to know how to read and write. Pottery created and signed by Dave, if discovered by his owners, was destroyed. Only a handful of pieces exist today.This story, Dave’s story, is told in verse and is a wonderful testament to the struggles of his life.
    more
  • Michele
    January 1, 1970
    I want you all to know that when I give a book a particular reading age that is usually the minimum age, the assumption is that grown-ups will find it an equally rich and beneficial read. "Etched in Clay" is most definitely one of these books. It may, in fact, be appreciated more by an adult.The wonderful thing about "Etched in Clay," is that Dave steps out of history with his own words etched into the clay pots he made for his masters. His voice calls to us through time. Cheng's novel in verse I want you all to know that when I give a book a particular reading age that is usually the minimum age, the assumption is that grown-ups will find it an equally rich and beneficial read. "Etched in Clay" is most definitely one of these books. It may, in fact, be appreciated more by an adult.The wonderful thing about "Etched in Clay," is that Dave steps out of history with his own words etched into the clay pots he made for his masters. His voice calls to us through time. Cheng's novel in verse is a perfect medium for this story, spare as the historical documentation is, the verse captures the story in vivid imagery and intense language. You won't be able to put it down, or you will, just to savor what you've read.
    more
  • Kristina Marie
    January 1, 1970
    Almost a 2.5. Such an interesting way to approach this topic/biography. Plus, the author's woodcuts are beautiful. I am not sure it will appeal to children though. It's almost a work of fiction: how it is written, what the "characters" say, etc. While there are history sections in the front and back of the book, I wish there could have been more so that readers would have a better sense of time and place. I enjoyed the book because I have learned about Dave, seen his pots, studied this time peri Almost a 2.5. Such an interesting way to approach this topic/biography. Plus, the author's woodcuts are beautiful. I am not sure it will appeal to children though. It's almost a work of fiction: how it is written, what the "characters" say, etc. While there are history sections in the front and back of the book, I wish there could have been more so that readers would have a better sense of time and place. I enjoyed the book because I have learned about Dave, seen his pots, studied this time period, and so on, but I think those readers first approaching this topic/artist would be left with the feeling that they were lacking information.Still a good book, but it could have been better.
    more
Write a review