The Pot That Juan Built

By 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 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.