This latest installment in the She Made History series features Tewa potter Maria Povika, who learned “the centuries-old tradition of san-away,” or hand-built clay pots made from clay, water, and volcanic ash, from her aunt in 19th-century San Ildefonso, N.Mex. When an archaeologist visits Maria in 1908, requesting a prototype based upon “an ancient sherd of black pottery” uncovered at a nearby dig, Maria, with the assistance of her husband, Julian Martinez, gets to work, eventually creating a new firing technique that makes her a world-renowned ceramicist and “elevated Native American Indian pottery to a fine art.” The prose is accessibly authored by Gonzales, the eldest great-grandchild of the Martinezes, and Freeman, whose childhood was informed by her Osage grandmother’s collection of art. Aphelandra adds vibrant, subtly textured spreads to this profile of an arts pioneer. Back matter includes more about the subject, the Tewa people, and San Ildefonso Pueblo; authors’ notes; and selected sources. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books for Younger Readers 2021 A Junior Library Guild Selection April 2021 Kirkus Best Picture-Book Biographies of 2021 Great Reads from Great Places 2022: New Mexico
STARRED REVIEW! "This story of a young girl from San Ildefonso Pueblo...celebrates the strong sense of culture and identity the Tewa people have maintained through the centuries. Aphelandra...paints with the hues of the Rio Grande's turquoise waters, orange pottery fires, pink sandstone sunsets, and the obsidian black clay of Maria’s pots; the result is earthy and elemental, containing the spirit of the New Mexican landscape. A deserved celebration."—Kirkus Reviews starred review
STARRED REVIEW! "Through masterful storytelling and graceful illustrations, this impactful title embodies Maria Povika Martinez's famous words: 'The Great Spirit gave me [hands] that work...but not for myself, for all Tewa people.'"—School Library Journal starred review
"The prose is accessibly authored by Gonzales, the eldest great-grandchild of the Martinezes, and Freeman, whose childhood was informed by her Osage grandmother's collection of art. Aphelandra adds vibrant, subtly textured spreads to this profile of an arts pioneer."—Publishers Weekly
"Co-written by Martinez's eldest great-grandchild (Gonzales), this picture book biography shows how the Pueblo potter revived an ancient art form used by her people and developed a new style of black-on-blackwarepottery that became internationally recognized and sought after."—The Horn Book, Book Bundles
K-Gr 3—This picture book celebrates the life of Maria Povika (1887–1980), a renowned Tewa artist who discovered a pottery firing technique that changed history. In late 19th-century San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM, Povika began making pottery at a young age. She gathered clay from the Rio Grande to make pots, but despite her efforts, they cracked after being left in the sun. She sought help from her Aunt Nicolasa, who taught Povika the tradition of san-away and the importance of thanking Mother Earth and preserving Tewa traditions by sharing clay knowledge. Later, Povika married Julian Martinez, who helped raise their family while Povika's artistic reputation continued to grow. In 1908, Povika was approached by an archaeologist, who asked her to make a pot based on a piece of ancient black pottery. While experimenting with different firing processes, Povika and Martinez accidentally created beautiful, glossy black clay pots. Soon, so many people wanted to buy their pots that Povika and Martinez had to train others in the Pueblo to mold and paint them. The couple was invited to teach their techniques, from San Francisco to New York and back to Tewa Pueblo again. After Martinez passed away, Povika shared her clay knowledge with her children and the Tewa people. Short, simple text conveys the significance of Povika's discovery. Soft, colorful illustrations provide a sense of warmth and pay tribute to her lasting impact on her community and the world. VERDICT Through masterful storytelling and graceful illustrations, this impactful title embodies Maria Povika Martinez's famous words: "The Great Spirit gave me [hands] that work…but not for myself, for all Tewa people."—Natalie Romano, Denver P.L.
Born around 1887, Maria Martinez became one of the greatest Native artists of all time.
This story of a young girl from San Ildefonso Pueblo, near Santa Fe, New Mexico, celebrates the strong sense of culture and identity the Tewa people have maintained through the centuries. Intrigued by her people’s traditions, young Maria would rather fashion clay pots than play with straw dolls, but every time she makes one, it breaks apart while drying in the sun. Seeing her niece’s dedication, her aunt teaches Maria how to mix the clay with volcanic ash and water before coiling it between her hands to bake in an open fire. What evolves from these lessons is a young child’s sense of pride in her cultural history as well as the rediscovery of a technique long forgotten by her people. From New York to San Francisco, Maria becomes famous for her signature pottery style, making her name synonymous with excellence and value in the pottery world. Aphelandra, who has Oneida heritage, paints with the hues of the Rio Grande’s turquoise waters, orange pottery fires, pink sandstone sunsets, and the obsidian black clay of Maria’s pots; the result is earthy and elemental, containing the spirit of the New Mexican landscape. The characters are depicted in their traditional Tewa clothing and hairstyles, encompassing multiple generations of the artists’ family in a way that strikes upon the legacy she both received and left behind.
A deserved celebration of a famous Tewa potter who elevated her craft to fine art. (biographical note, historical note, authors’ note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)