Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: The Pot that Juan Built

Title: The Pot That Juan Built
Author: Nancy Andrews-Goebel
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Pages: 32
Availability: On shelves now
Review Copy: Library

Summary: Written in the form of “The House That Jack Built” and accompanied by explanatory material, this celebratory story is also the tale of the village of Mata Ortiz and its people. Juan’s pioneering work has transformed Mata Ortiz from an impoverished village into a prosperous community of world-renowned artists.

With vibrant illustrations by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz, The Pot That Juan Built is sure to enlighten all who are fascinated by traditional art forms, Mexican culture, and the power of the human spirit to find inspiration from the past. -- Cover image and summary via IndieBound

Review: This book captures me on many levels. There is the mimicry of "The House That Jack Built" so it is a great addition to a unit on cumulative stories. There is a wonderful non-fiction component, so it can be paired with biography or "how-to" units and of course the art component means that this book would be fabulous with a pottery unit too. On top of all of those thematic possibilities, the illustrations are dazzling in themselves. David Diaz uses bold colors and design that captures readers.

My students immediately began to chime in on the rhyming portion of the text. They especially loved the line, "Before it was baked in the cow manure fire." Each two page spread has a bit of the rhyme and the facing page has a brief explanation to go along with it. This is where the details are explained like the fact that Juan does in fact gather cow manure and uses it as the fuel for the fire.

My students were fascinated to learn that this story is about a real person and there is a website that shows some of the pictures from the information section at the end of the book in addition to even more pictures of his actual work.

To see that one man taught himself how to create pots of such beauty using only the natural materials from the land around him is pretty amazing. That he shared this knowledge with his community so they could also create these kinds of pots is even more inspiring. My third graders were quite impressed with his abilities and also found the rhyme to be quite fun. It is a joy to be able to share such a unique non-fiction text with my students.

After using the book in lessons, I also found several videos online so in the future we will also get to hear from Juan Quezada himself.


I will be recommending this book to many people in the future.

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