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A Single Shard Paperback – January 10, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 312 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Park (Seesaw Girl) molds a moving tribute to perseverance and creativity in this finely etched novel set in mid- to late 12th-century Korea. In Ch'ul'po, a potter's village, Crane-man (so called because of one shriveled leg) raises 10-year-old orphan Tree Ear (named for a mushroom that grows "without benefit of "parent-seed"). Though the pair reside under a bridge, surviving on cast-off rubbish and fallen grains of rice, they believe "stealing and begging... made a man no better than a dog." From afar, Tree Ear admires the work of the potters until he accidentally destroys a piece by Min, the most talented of the town's craftsmen, and pays his debt in servitude for nine days. Park convincingly conveys how a community of artists works (chopping wood for a communal kiln, cutting clay to be thrown, etc.) and effectively builds the relationships between characters through their actions (e.g., Tree Ear hides half his lunch each day for Crane-man, and Min's soft-hearted wife surreptitiously fills the bowl). She charts Tree Ear's transformation from apprentice to artist and portrays his selflessness during a pilgrimage to Songdo to show Min's work to the royal court he faithfully continues even after robbers shatter the work and he has only a single shard to show. Readers will not soon forget these characters or their sacrifices. Ages 10-14.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8-In this tale of courage and devotion, a single shard 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.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (January 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547534264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547534268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (312 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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A Kid's Review on February 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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.
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A Kid's Review on March 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
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.
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