When I was in latter elementary school–and maybe junior high–my mother went back to school to finish up her degree. She majored in art teaching, which meant art classes of all different kinds; as the youngest, I sometimes went along with her up to the college, particularly when she had classes that required resources we didn’t have at home. One of the two classes I remember distinctly involved photography and visits to a dark room; the other involved ceramics and visits to the pottery wheel. What I really remember about the pottery wheel is that trying to make something on it was HARD; I bailed in short order and spent the time my mother was on the wheel molding a figure out of clay with my hands. There is also, however, a wisp of a memory of the feeling of the wheel, of the clay moving beneath my hands, and that’s what was on my mind as I read The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius.
I hadn’t heard of George Ohr at all, but I’m in good company–the name didn’t ring any bells for my mother, either. (I’m not returning the book to the library until she comes to town this weekend and gets the chance to look at it herself.) He was an art potter in the latter half of the 19th century, working (mostly) out of his hometown of Biloxi. His trinkets and more utilitarian creations sold, but he loved his artistic pieces while his contemporaries–generally–didn’t. As a result, he was neither prosperous nor respected during his lifetime; when a great stash of his work was discovered in the 1960s, however, it was (very belatedly) far more appreciated. Mad Potter tells George’s story in accessible text with an engaging voice; it’s about the length of a text-heavy longer picture book, making it perfect for the mid-elementary reads-non-fiction-independently crowd. My artist daughter enjoyed it as much as I did, so if you or your child has an interest in art and/or history, this one is totally worth your time.