Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet

Written and illustrated by Andrea Cheng

Hardcover: out of stock

E-Book: $9.99

Ebook Formats

Paperback: $12.95

Six Pack: $77.70

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. Today Dave is considered to be a master craftsperson whose jars are among the most sought-after pieces of Edgefield pottery.

See how the Etched in Clay artwork was made.

Read Andrea Cheng's Interview in School Library Journal

Podcast interview with:
Andrea Cheng and Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge on writing nonfiction (32:36)

NPR Affiliate WVXU's Interview with Andrea Cheng (10:54)

Explore additional teaching ideas with these three ways to use Etched in Clay.

Look at what close reading looks like with Etched in Clay.

About the Creators

Thumb_thumb Andrea Cheng - Author, Illustrator

was the author of several critically-acclaimed books for young readers. Her works range from picture books to young adult novels, and her stories often draw on the experiences of her Hungarian relatives or her husband’s Chinese family. When not writing books, Cheng taught English as a Second Language at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. She passed away in late 2015. Learn more about her work at

About This Title


Hardcover: 9781600604515

E-Book: 9781600608933

Paperback: 9781620148075

Six Pack: 9781620148150


Best Children's Books of the Year
Bank Street College of Education

Starred Review
School Library Journal

Starred Review
Kirkus Reviews

Junior Library Guild Selection

Parent's Choice Gold Award
Parents' Choice Foundation

Teacher's Choices
International Reading Association (IRA)

Notable Books in the Language Arts
National Council of Teachers of English

Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)

Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children's Poetry
Pennsylvania Center for the Book

Notables in Language Arts
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Ohioana Book Award
Ohioana Library Association

Skipping Stones Honor Award
Skipping Stones Magazine

Story Telling World Award
Storytelling Magazine

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Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 4 - 8

Reading Level:

Grades 4 - 5


Middle Grade, United States History, Slavery, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Poetry, Overcoming Obstacles, History, Discrimination, African/African American Interest, Biography/Memoir, Art, Empathy/Compassion, Informational Text, Integrity/Honesty , Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Realistic Fiction, Respect/Citizenship, Self Control/Self Regulation

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