• Michelle Nott

The Beauty of Tradition, Craft, and Community

Shaped By Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez, written by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales, illustrated by Aphelandra, and published by Albert Whitman & Co.


This inspiring story of family, tradition, and art is co-authored by Maria Martinez's great-granddaughter Barbara Gonzales, who is also a potter, and Anna Harber Freeman.


Aphelandra's illustrations grab the reader from the initial endpapers decorated in pottery motifs and into the pages of the story of Maria Martinez's life.


From a young age, Maria learned to work with clay from her aunt. Readers will empathize with Maria as she makes several attempts at creating the perfect bowl. She eventually earns a strong reputation for her pottery skills. So when an archeologist finds a rare piece of black pottery at one of his dig sites, he asks Maria if she could replicate it. That encounter launches Maria, her pottery, and her Tewa community into fame.


I appreciate how the authors talk about the traditional uses for the pottery that the Tewa community create. Shaped By Her Hands not only shares the story of Maria Martinez's life, but also the evolution and elevation of Native American pottery, once only seen as utilitarian, to being recognized as fine art.


The authors also weave in words from the Tewa language throughout the text in such a way that young readers will easily understand their meanings.


Imagine It!


An important theme in Shaped By Her Hands is the handing down of knowledge and of skill, of remembering ancestors and giving thanks to Mother Earth.


Imagine from whom some of your talents may have come. Has someone in your family or community shared a skill with you?


Imagine one of your talents and how you could share it with a sibling, a friend, a classmate, or an adult in your life.


Write a story or draw a picture of your special gift and how you could teach others around you. Or, find a friend and teach each other something new.


Imagine what a great sense of tradition and community that could create!

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