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The Pot That Juan Built

The Pot That Juan Built

4.1 7
by Nancy Andrews-Goebel, David Diaz (Illustrator)

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Quezada creates stunning pots in the traditional style of the Casas Grandes people, including using human hair to make brushes and cow dung to feed the fire. This real-life story is written in the form of "The House That Jack Built," and relays how Juan's pioneering work has changed a poor village into a prosperous community of world-class artists. Illustrated by


Quezada creates stunning pots in the traditional style of the Casas Grandes people, including using human hair to make brushes and cow dung to feed the fire. This real-life story is written in the form of "The House That Jack Built," and relays how Juan's pioneering work has changed a poor village into a prosperous community of world-class artists. Illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Noted Mexican potter Juan Quezada is the subject of an inventive and engrossing biography from newcomer Andrews-Goebel (who coproduced a documentary on Quezada) and Caldecott winner Diaz. On the left side of each spread, a "House That Jack Built"-style rhyme accumulates the often humble factors that shaped an extraordinary artist ("These are the cows all white and brown/ That left manure all over the ground/ That fueled the flames so sizzling hot/ That flickered and flared and fired the pot/ The beautiful pot that Juan built"). This lilting rhyme describes the rudiments of Quezada's process, but for more ambitious readers, the opposite page (unfortunately, in very small type) provides a straightforward elaboration ("Juan's pottery is fired the traditional way, using dried cow manure for fuels.... [M]anure from cows that eat grass, rather than commercial feed, burns at the best temperature to turn his clay pots into perfectly fired works of art"). Diaz ingeniously ties the two narrative threads together with strongly horizontal compositions and radiant, stencil-like digital renderings (a highlight is the spread in which ants point the way to a vein of fine white clay). The artist shows Quezada both at work and seeking inspiration in the scrubby foothills. The glowing tones of the artwork capture the sweep and heat of the sun-bleached landscape, while the highly stylized elements echo the decorative motifs of Quezada's pottery and lend a suitably mythic patina to this visionary artist's story. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature
This variation on the House That Jack Built pattern takes us from the beautiful pot back through the firing, the painting and the shaping, all the way to the finding and digging of the clay, "the very best clay all squishy and white." Parallel to this cumulative story runs very detailed information in smaller type about professional potter Juan Quesada's life and work in his Mexican village. Diaz has created decorative double-page spreads of computer-generated, stencil-like images in warm colors of local scenery and architecture along with Juan and his friends. Several small color photographs of Juan and his creations are included in the several pages of the Afterword, as well as a great deal of further information, making a book for expanding knowledge as well as for pleasure reading. 2002, Lee & Low Books,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Combining aspects of folklore and nonfiction, this book tells the story of Juan Quezada, a man living in Mata Ortiz, a remote village in Chihuahua, Mexico. In his explorations in the mountains near his village, Juan found shards of pottery from the Casa Grandes people who had disappeared six hundred years earlier. Juan set about to rediscover their method for making pottery, using the resources at hand. His success—using the fine local clay and found minerals for paint, using human hair for his brushes, and burning dried cow dung to fire the pots at the ideal temperature to make incomparably beautiful pots—has changed forever the economic and artistic life of the village. The left-hand pages in this book contain a story told in the cumulative rhyming folk pattern found in The House that Jack Built. These words describe the process Juan uses to create his unique works of art. On the right-hand side of the pages, a denser but more straight-forward text provides a factual account of Quezada's discoveries and techniques. The Afterward amplifies this information with actual small color photographs of the village, the artist, the process, and a couple of examples of the beautiful, original pottery created by Quezada and others in the village to whom he has taught his craft. The text is set against an orange/yellow, fire-colored background created by Caldecott Award-winning artist, David Diaz, on which decorative art patterns and stylized illustrations of Juan Quezada, the cows, foliage, and other story elements seem to glow. The cover and opening page, which shows Quezada holding a glowing pot against his chest, makes the pot seem to serve as his heart, suffused with a glowing warmth andexpansive light. This is a fascinating and inspiring first book by a California author/filmmaker. The author's rich language in the cumulative tale artfully summarizes the factual details. David Diaz's glowing illustrations lend a magical quality to the story. The book can be appreciated in many dimensions. It could be shared along with the 2001 Newberry Award-winning book by Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard (Houghton Mifflin), as part of investigating the importance of pottery in the artistic and cultural life of a people. It can be used as a read-aloud for younger students, can be read for art appreciation, and as a cultural and anthropological work. It is, finally, a story of one man's vision and persistence directed towards realizing a dream while, at the same time, validating his heritage, forming artifacts of beauty for the world, teaching this art to his siblings and neighbors, and creating with them a future filled with the light of hope. 2002, Lee & Low,
— Marilyn Robertson
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5-Juan Quezada is one of the best-known potters in Mexico. Using only natural materials to form and paint his pots, he is responsible for creating a vibrant folk-art economy in his small town of Mata Ortiz. This unusual book is set up to allow for differing levels of reading expertise, presenting information about Quezada in such a way that it can be read as a story or as an informational book, part biography, part fine-arts discussion. One page contains a catchy cumulative rhyme modeled on "This Is the House That Jack Built," which outlines the process of making a pot. The facing page offers a clearly written prose presentation, laying out the story of the potter's life and his method of constructing pots in the classic style of the Casas Grandes Indians. Diaz's arresting illustrations, rendered in Adobe Photoshop, use yellows, oranges, and reds in a layered effect that seems to glow with an inward light. The use of stylized forms-all of the people with a full-face front eye in the manner of ancient Egyptian art-adds a sense of gravitas and historical continuity to the artwork. An afterword gives a more in-depth treatment of Quezada's life and work, and is illustrated with small inset color photographs. This is a must purchase for all collections, and could be used with Diana Cohn's Dream Carver (Chronicle, 2002) for a look at how both art and economies of scale can work to enrich our lives and to build community.-Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ingeniously crafted with a three-part structure, this informational picture book tells the story of Juan Quezada of Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Mexico, who single-handedly rediscovered the processes and materials used by the long-vanished Casas Grandes Indians to create fine pottery. Fascinated by the ancient potsherds he found as a child, Quezada knew that this pottery had to have been made using only natural materials found in the area, and so began to experiment until he was able to create pottery that resembled these ancient fragments. The result, after many years, has been the transformation of his impoverished village into a thriving community of craftspeople, and the creation of astonishingly beautiful pottery that is now found in museums and art galleries around the world. Andrews-Goebel tells this story by interweaving a rhyme patterned on "The House that Jack Built" ("This is the cock that crowed at dawn / That greeted the village and woke up Juan") with a prose telling of Quezada's story ("When he was twelve years old, while bringing firewood down from the hills on his burro, Juan found his first potsherds"). A final section that includes small photographs provides additional factual and background information. Based on the author's visits with Quezada to make a documentary film, no additional sources of information are provided. Diaz's (Angel Face, 2001, etc.) characteristic illustrations, with colors somewhat muted by the earth tones of clay, reflect Quezada's intricate, swirling pottery designs in background patterns, and capture, in a stylized manner, the ambience of the little village on the high windy plains of Chihuahua and the drama of Juan's discoveries. A lovely andunusual offering. (Nonfiction/picture book. 6+)

Product Details

Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
11.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.35(d)
1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 8 Years

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Pot That Juan Built 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful biography that integrates art, culture, geography, history, and so on. This isn't merely a children's book, it is a wonderful piece of literature for any age that can be used across the content areas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great biography! As an educator and elementary school principal in a multicultural school I found the story of Juan Quezada's life and art fascinating. Pairing the reading of this story with art activities, pottery displays, and pictures of pottery would inspire children to become artists.
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
Story of Juan Quezada told in flowing poetry with beautiful, eye-catching illustrations is offered in this book "The Pot That Juan Built." An explanation of how Juan taught others the art of pottery-making is also included. Photos in the "afterward" section show readers the pottery-making process. It is rather fascinating, informative, and educational. Young readers, this is just an opinion, will enjoy this book; it is easy-to-read and easy-to-comprehend.
dh325 More than 1 year ago
This is a charming book - excellent before you are heading off to the museum or a trip to the Grand Canyon, Arizona, New Mexico etc. While the writing is sutiable to a first grader, the concepts are great for older children. As well, with an older child you can talk about the structure of the story and how it works backward from the finished pot to looking for the clay itself. I also liked the end piece with a more detailed bio of Juan and his work.
MLM51 More than 1 year ago
The book The Pot Juan Bult, by Nancy Andrews-Coebel, told the story about how a young boy began his journey to become a professional potter. Juan lived with his family and started creating pottery with no experience at all. This book goes through the steps it takes to create a piece of pottery. The book was interesting because on one side it was telling Juan's story and on the other it was a cumulative poem/ryhme. This book would be great for younger students (grade 1-3) to learn about pottery and poetry. The Pot Juan Built also has wonderful illustrations by David Diaz. I would use this book in my classroom to teach students about language, culture, geography and life lessons. Juan did not give up and went for his dream. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and think it would be a great book to share in a classroom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I use this book to teach economics and to teach how one person can make a difference for many. This book is based on a true story. Juan, by being very persistent, rediscovered the traditional pottery making process of his ancestors. The traditional story line coupled with the real story makes this useful for literature and for social studies. The inclusion of the story of Juan and his village at the end of the book is particularly educational too. This book has been one of my favorites for years. We have used it for teacher education repeatedly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am disappointed, this book isn¿t captivating. I find it to be boring and pretentious, ironically a knock-off of a Classic nursery rhyme while trying too hard to be ethnic and historical. The poetry is trite and stilted, overusing the word beautiful, and all those rhyming verbs become tedious too. Furthermore, the story lacks a compelling plot. For a while, I worked at a bookstore with an extensive children¿s section and a story hour every week. When I first saw this book I thought, I would never be able to read this during story hour because the kids wouldn¿t pay attention.