Book review: The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius, by Jan Greenberg & Sandra Jordan

Greenberg, Jan & Sandra Jordan. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius. Roaring Book Press, 2013. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-810-1. 53 pgs. Ages 7-11. P7Q9.

Greenberg Mad PotterThis is a historical biography about a “mad” potter who, as a young man living in the late 1800’s, tried to become a potter of note while supporting his ten-person family. His eccentricity, individualism, ego, the place and time, however, conspired to keep success from him; though he never stopped trying to achieve it. Packed with historical photos and beautiful full color pictures of Ohr’s whimsical pots, this is a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of a man dying to be recognized for his talent. That recognition comes by pure chance fifty years after his death, is remarkable. A man before his time, this book is both humorous in its portrait of an artist oozing with personality and interesting in its explanation of how pottery is made and what distinguished Ohr’s pots from others’. Weaving it all together is a country recovering from a civil war and moving swiftly into the industrial era, continually changing the context in which Ohr chases success. Though well written and easy to read, I’m not sure it has a broad enough appeal to interest young people unless they are already drawn to pottery. As someone with a potter for a partner, I was anxious to read it and surprised that he, my partner, had never heard of him. I really enjoyed it and think it’s important to bring personal stories of remarkable yet ordinary people to light. NOTE: Amazon lists the age range for this book as 7-11 but I can’t imagine reading it to anyone younger than 9 and I think it could easily work through high school for a biography, history or art assignment. April 2014 review by A.L.

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