149 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Twist on Familiar Orphan Story
As a Korean person, I'm quite familiar with the orphan story tradition that exists in Korean culture and literature. When I was a kid, my parents told me they picked me up under a bridge when they wanted to chide me for some mischief, and I used to cry. It may sound strange to westerners, but the 'orphan under a bridge' is a familiar archetypal story that's been passed on...
Published on January 22, 2002 by 50cent-haircut
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Newbery material
The story is fine though predictable, and the book reads smoothly (Park makes clear writing look easy and creates some lovely lines). However, everyone I've heard compliment this book is an adult. The book's predominantly narrative style, its quiet tone, and its detailed passages about ceramics might be too subtle--or slow--for many children. I recommend the book for...
Published on January 26, 2002
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149 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Twist on Familiar Orphan Story,
As a Korean person, I'm quite familiar with the orphan story tradition that exists in Korean culture and literature. When I was a kid, my parents told me they picked me up under a bridge when they wanted to chide me for some mischief, and I used to cry. It may sound strange to westerners, but the 'orphan under a bridge' is a familiar archetypal story that's been passed on through generations through oral storytelling as well as narrative ones. Korea is a country that's been through countless attacks and subjugations by other countries and empires, and the possibility that a child could suffer the plight of being an 'orphan under the bridge' strikes a particular chord of fear and pity for the Koreans.
Linda Sue Park does a fabulous job of taking this traditional Korean story module as a catalyst for a well-developed tale of triumph of a boy who shouldn't have overcome the odds but did. Placing the protagonist boy in 12th century Korea was a shrewd move, as it was the era when Korean art was deemed to be in its apex, especially its pottery. As we follow Tree Ear, the hero of the book, trying to overcome many obstacles to become the master potter, we also become aware of the rich culture and tradition of an exotic land.
It's a tribute to Ms. Park that she does this without sentimentalizing and 'orientalising' the world that she depicts. (Although I question the translation of the boy's name into 'Tree Ear', a la Amy Tan) We only get a deeply moving tale, a bildungsroman of a boy who came into his own despite the odds. It's a common story structure, but it works unfailingly through Ms. Park's convincing and inspired narrative and the previously uncharted terrain of 12th century Korea. Very well done. Get this book for your kids but steal it away from them at night when they're sleeping and read it yourself.
64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Place; Another Time,
A short time ago I wrote about how I find the Booker Prize to be one of the few awards that consistently recognizes truly excellent books. The other award that I think does as well is the Newbery Medal. As always, there is varying quality even among the winners of this award but I found this book to be one of the best of the best.
First of all, I always appreciate books that take me to places I've never been. Certainly, this story of twelfth century Korea does that. Additionally, it describes various processes of pottery-making, something else with which I was not very familiar.
Most importantly, however, this is a story filled with wonderful characters. Tree-ear is an orphan who lives beneath a bridge with an old man named Crane-man. Slowly, Tree-ear works his way into the family of a master potter, Min & his wife, by doing work which the old potter now finds difficult. Ultimately, Tree-ear is sent on a long journey to the capital with a sample of Min's work to obtain a royal commission but, when the samples are destroyed along the way, he can only take a shard of the former pottery to the commissioner.
This is a beautiful story which is well worth reading--and that includes any "adults" who might be reading this. Remember, if you can't read a "children's book" and enjoy it, then your child should probably not be reading it either.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ribbons - A Single Shard,
A Kid's Review
There is a boy named Tree-ear who is best friends with a man named Crane-man. They together live under a bridge on the outer edge of the village near the forest where he watches master potter Min creating beautiful pieces of pottery. He wishes to become like Min and so becomes Min's apprentice. After a long time of just being apprentice, Min sends Tree-ear on a very important journey to the kings court to deliever pottery. When Tree-ear returns, he finds Crane-man has passed away and Min decides to take him in as his adoptive son. I also like this part of the book because this is when Min realizes how he really missed having a child to love and look after, after the passing on of his young son. He finally realizes that he should take in Tree-ear as his own.
I liked this book a lot because it talked of the korean culture in a way that everyone could understand. Also it struck me very deep at heart when Tree-ear, finally coming within a hairs breath of fulfilling his dreams finds out that his closest friend who helped him get there, Crane-man has passed on. I also like this book because of the great detail it goes into to describe the procedures for making pottery. This book takes you so smoothly through different emotions that you won't even know when your crying or laughing, you'll just know that your having a good time reading the book.
My favorite part of the book is when Tree-ear returns to find that Crane-man has passed on, and Master Min tells Tree-ear that Crane-man would not let go of the mini monkey he made. I think its very touching to know that even when you greatest friend and family is not forgetting you even at the verge of death and after they have passed on.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book deserved the Newbery,
A Kid's Review
I am 12 years old, and I liked this book a lot. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. I ended up finishing it in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Even though the plot is very simple, there's a lot of messages inside of it. It is similar to the box that Tree-Ear finds that is simple on the outside, but inside it has many other boxes in a complex layout. For example, when the potter Min's wife discoveres Tree-Ear is saving the lunch he receives from her, she refils his bowl even when he hids it. When Tree-Ear finds the re-filled bowl, instead of being greedy the next day and eating the whole thing because he knows it will be refilled, he only eats half. Tree-Ear and Crane-Man don't have much, but they are thankful for the little that they do have. I think this book is a very good book for children, and I think it deserved to win the Newbery award.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REMARKABLE READING OF AN AWARD WINNING TALE,
This review is from: A Single Shard (Audio Cassette)
Broadway and television veteran Graeme Malcolm brings to vivid life a poignant story that reminds us of what is good and true.
His name, Tree-ear, was given to him because it was the name of a mushroom that grew without a parent seed. It is an appropriate name as Tree-ear is a young orphan in 12th century Korea. He lives with Crane-man, an elderly poor but kindly man. Their village is known for the beautiful celadon pottery created there.
In the beginning ceramics are of no interest to Tree-ear as his time is spent scavenging for food. Then one day he sees Min, a potter, at work. The boy becomes so fascinated that he later returns to inspect the pottery more closely. Unfortunately, one of the pots breaks and Tree-ear must apprentice himself to Min in order to compensate for the damage he has done.
Tree-ear works hard and Min allows him to continue to work in trade for food. Choices are made, decisions faces as the boy labors and grows. Eventually, Tree-ear's ability is recognized by a high authority, a representative of the palace.
Historical detail enriches this remarkable tale which will be enjoyed by all ages.
- Gail Cooke
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars with a note...,
By A Customer
This book is excellent, no doubt. The writing, the descriptions, the characters are all wonderful....for a much older reader, close to adult age. This was part of my twelve-year-old's reading list for his gifted class at school. Nearly the entire class could not get through the book, not because it was difficult to read, but because they found it tedious to read so many long passages, and, to them, dull descriptions of a time period and skill that did not entice many. The teachers and parents loved it, but I'm not sure it entertains the 9-12 year old set. Also, dialog was very limited which automatically turns off a 9-12 reader. It deserves five stars, but don't be surprised if they come from the adult readers.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Orphan Boy,
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is a tale of overcoming the limitations set by one's society through hard work and perseverance. The protagonist, a young orphan boy named Tree-ear is our guide through 12th century Korean life. The underside of a bridge serves as a home for Tree-ear and his older friend Crane-man in the small town of Ch'ul'po. Tree-ear and Crane-man spend much of their days scavenging for food in garbage heaps and on occasion finding fish. Aside from this being the young boy that Tree-ear is, he gets curious and ends up spying on the master potter min. When Tree-ear's curiosity gets the best of him, he waits until Min is gone and begins to handle the beautiful Celadon Pottery that Min has crafted. In an instant it slips from Tree-ears hands and breaks. This begins Tree-ear's journey as a helper to the potter Min, thus to pay off his debt of the broken pottery. The story unravels quickly as Tree-ear wants so badly to make a pot of his very own; however Min would never let a young orphan boy learn his very sacred trade. As the reader follows Tree-ear we too, sit and hope that he will be able to over come his predestined fate as an orphan boy.
Ms. Park takes the reader on an emotional journey with Tree-ear as we see him make sacrifices for his dear friend Crane-man and work even when it seemed like Min was never happy with him. Tree-ear's feelings and struggles come to life as he experiences despair in not pleasing the potter Min. Tree-ear's success are also touching; however you will have to read the book to find out how.
Ms. Park does an exceptional job of demonstrating the roles of various people in a typical Korea society. The master potter is a perfectionist who finds it indecent to apprentice anyone but a "real" son. Potter Min's wife is the traditional woman of the house who takes care of the family and at times even takes care of Tree-ear behind Min's back. Having all these roles clearly defined helps the reader to see how Tree-ear really is defying what the town has written as his fate.
I would recommend this book to all children ages 8 and above. It really gives children a sense of societal roles, hard work, family traditions, and other cultures.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pottering about,
This review is from: A Single Shard (Audio CD)
Amazon.com has its uses. I review children's books on this website fairly frequently. I am also, in my spare time, a children's librarian. I was not, however, a children's librarian back when "A Single Shard" won the 2002 Newbery Award for the best book of the year. Had I been, I might have been able to gauge whether or not people felt that it was a deserving winner. As I sat down to write this review of it, I had to wonder what children forced to read it in their elementary schools across the country thought of the book. Did they like it? Think it was dull and not worth the read? As of this moment in time there are 92 reviews of this book and Amazon allows you to sort all reviews by those that rate it the highest and those that rate it the lowest. Without hesitation I told the site to show me the lowest of the low votes given to "A Single Shard". Do this on almost any other recent Newbery winner and you'll be privy to a whole bunch of children metaphorically beating their breasts and wondering why the cruel gods above them saw fit to torture them with the reading of this book, yadda yadda yadda. In the case of "A Single Shard" the lowest reviews are 3 stars. 3 stars from those inevitable people who didn't much care for the text. For a Newbery winner this is beyond amazing. It's almost incomprehensible. No book gets that good a rating if it has won a major award. "A Single Shard" has and I am pleased to say that yes, it makes for an excellent read. I just hope you like a little pottery with your prose.
Tree-ear has never known his parents. Never known anyone really except for the man he lives with, Crane Man, under a bridge in the seaside village of Ch-ulp'o (in 12th century western Korea, to be exact). The two live by scavenging mostly. Crane Man does it because he has a twisted leg that renders him incapable of work. Tree-ear because the only person he has in the world is Crane Man. Of course, Tree-ear always likes to watch the potter Min working in his outdoor studio. It's only when Tree-ear accidentally breaks one of Min's pots while admiring it that he comes to begin to work for the potter. The boy naturally thinks he'll someday be taught how to throw a pot of his own, but Min doesn't seem to have any interest in teaching Tree-ear anything at all. The longer Tree-ear works for the potter, the better life comes to be until one day a royal emissary comes with a royal commission. Min obviously deserves it, but a rival in the village has come up with an entirely new technique. If Min can replicate the technique and send two perfect examples of it to the emissary in the royal city of Songdo on Tree-ear's back, he may have a chance at winning the honor of a lifetime. It's up to Tree-ear now to make a difficult journey under harsh circumstances for a difficult man. It must all come down to intelligence and skill.
Pottery in children's books. Think about it. What other titles come to mind? The only thing I could come up with was the moment in "Taran Wanderer" when the hero of the book learns to make a pot of his own. It's a small section and really doesn't do the art any kind of justice. Really, "A Single Shard" is the only memorable children's book that delves deeply into a particular style of pottery and makes it sound fascinating. Of course, I say that it sounds fascinating because I am twenty-seven and I think that pots are cool. Kids, on the other hand, will need to be convinced. "A Single Shard" moves at its own steady unyielding pace. As one child reviewer of this book pointed out, there's some action near the book's end, but not much is going on before that in terms of excitement. There are nice descriptive passages, great characterizations, and a battle of wits (of sorts) between the boy and the man who refuses to take him on as an apprentice. If the kids aren't bored by the pottery sections (many won't be) and don't mind reading a book where things don't blow up, it'll be a pleasurable read. A little predictable but nice just the same.
Confession Time: I didn't read the book. Nope. I borrowed the audio cd from my local library, downloading "A Single Shard" onto my iPod, and was privy to the dulcet tones of one Graeme Malcolm. Amazon lumps audio and print reviews together so if you aren't interested in listening to this book in your spare time, I understand. But if you've a big ole car trip coming up and you want your kids to listen to a book that has slightly more intelligence than your average Walt Disney soundtrack, seriously consider giving Mr. Malcolm's reading a go. If you're already familiar with Jim Dale's reading of the Harry Potter books then Malcolm will at first strike you as a similar reader with his calm British accent. He has a very different style than Dale though. It may seem a little odd that a Brit is reading a book set in Korea, but after the initial "Huh?" sensation, it works out beautifully. He knows exactly how to distinguish between Crane Man's humorous age and Min's harsh grumbles. There is no confusing Tree-ear with Min's wife or anyone with the emissary at any time. Instead, the voices jump out at the viewer and even the longest description of what it means to fire a pot under a coat of glaze is comprehensible and, even better, interesting. Malcolm gives the book a life of its own. So if my review is a little biased towards it, perhaps that is just because I liked what I heard.
In any case, I was pleased with the book. Now I don't think it's the greatest thing ever written, but it's certainly the strongest story Park has created as of the time of this review. Here's hoping that in her future more books of this stripe (if not this exact breed) will come along down the pike. Your kids have to read a Newbery winner? Well, it wouldn't be my first choice, but they may well find themselves enjoying it thoroughly. Good fun stuff.
43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Newbery Winning Book,
By A Customer
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I first read A Single Shard last summer. When I finished, I knew this book would win the Newbery. I have never felt that way about any other book! Linda Sue Park is a beautiful writer and excellent storyteller. A Single Shard is set in 12th century Korea and tells the story of an orphan boy who becomes the apprentice to a master potter in a small village known for its fine pottery. This story is classic historical fiction that is able to take the reader to another time, another country, and another culture and still connect with the hopes and dreams of today's youth. You don't have to be Korean to identify with the characters in this story. Readers young and old will love this touching story of faith, friendship, and perseverance.
Readers will also enjoy Linda Sue Park's other books, "Seesaw Girl" and "Kite Fighters".
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Inspiring Book,
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park, is set in 12th century Korea. The main character of this book is a young orphan boy named Tree-ear who lives under a bridge with an old, crippled man named Crane man. When he is not rummaging for food, Tree-ear spends countless hours watching a potter named Min as he works. Tree-ear wants someday to become a potter himself, but because this trade is supposed to be handed down from father to son, it seems at first very unlikely that Tree-ear will ever realize this dream. Eventually, Tree-ear does get a job working for Min, but he is only allowed to gather firewood and collect the clay which will be made into new pots. One day a royal emissary comes to town to give a pottery commission to a master potter. The selected potter would then make the pottery for the king and his court. Min works on a piece of pottery for a long time in the hopes of submitting it to the royal commission. When the piece is finally completed, Tree-ear eagerly volunteers to take the piece to the king. What happens to Tree-ear along the way of this journey is both surprising and inspiring. I really enjoyed reading this book because the setting and time period is unique, and the characters are very realistic. I also think that this book offers many important lessons for our youth today.
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A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Hardcover - February 1, 2003)
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