Title & Author: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Summary: Set in ancient Korea, twelve-year-old orphan Tree-ear lives under a bridge and yearns to have the esteem of a local potter. Given an opportunity to learn from a great master, Tree-ear finds himself with more than just clay on his hands -- the weight of his culture is on his shoulders.
Reference: Park, L. S. (2001). A Single Shard. New York, NY: Clarion.
My Impressions: This 2002 Newberry winner is one the most beautiful young adult books I have ever used to teach history. I had great success using this novel in a 7th grade combined World History/English class because of not only the cultural and historical references, but also the richness of the characters. Young readers can relate to Tree-ear – his desire for recognition, courage, and to become something more than he is.
Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “In this tale of courage and devotion, a singleshard from a celadon vase changes the life of a young boy and his master. In 12th-century Korea, the village of Ch'ulp'o is famous for its pottery. The orphan Tree-ear spends his days foraging for food for himself and Crane-man, a lame straw weaver who has cared for him for many years. Because of his wanderings, Tree-ear is familiar with all of the potters in the village, but he is especially drawn to Min. When he drops a piece Min has made, Tree-ear begins to work for him to pay off his debt, but stays on after the debt is paid because he longs to learn to create beautiful pots himself. Sent to the royal court to show the king's emissary some new pottery, Tree-ear makes a long journey filled with disaster and learns what it means to have true courage. This quiet story is rich in the details of life in Korea during this period. In addition it gives a full picture of the painstaking process needed to produce celadon pottery. However, what truly stands out are the characters: the grumpy perfectionist, Min; his kind wife; wise Crane-man; and most of all, Tree-ear, whose determination and lively intelligence result in good fortune. Like Park's Seesaw Girl (1999) and The Kite Fighters (2000, both Clarion), this book not only gives readers insight into an unfamiliar time and place, but it is also a great story.”
Scotto, B. (2001, May 1). [Review of the book A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park]. School Library Journal, 47, (5), 158. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/
Library Uses: Excerpts from this book, depicting the methods of Korean pot throwing and celadon glazing, could be used in conjunction with a display of pottery by local artisans or art students.