The Pot That Juan Built

By 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 he 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 hill 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 and unusual offering.