A Single Shard

by Linda Sue Park

Paperback, 2003



Local notes

PB Par




Yearling (2003), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages. $5.99.


Tree-ear, a thirteen-year-old orphan in medieval Korea, lives under a bridge in a potters' village, and longs to learn how to throw the delicate celadon ceramics himself.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 5.36 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member cestovatela
This book was a lot more fun than I was expecting. Written at a low young adult reading level, it tells the story of Tree Ear, a homeless orphan who goes to work for a master potter after breaking a priceless vase. The novel includes many familiar elements of coming-of-age fiction: a wise, old
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mentor, a period of training and trials, and a long journey filled with hardship. What sets the book apart is its unusual setting and subject matter.

Celadon pottery, a speciality of 14th century Korea, is not a subject I would have ever dreamed would interest me, but after reading Linda Sue Park's vivid descriptions of its beauty, I found myself longing for a pottery wheel and some clay. Soon I was absorbed in the drama of the firing process, dying to know if the Master could achieve the perfect green hue and win a coveted royal commission.

This book would be a great way to get kids interested in art and culture, but I think adults will enjoy it too. It's very quick reading and a great choice if you're looking for something light that would still expose you to something new.
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LibraryThing member readingrat
An enchanting historical fiction with a strong message of integrity and courage.
LibraryThing member debnance
I read this a couple of years ago at the urging of some of my students. It was a magnificent read, all the more so because it had been students who encouraged me to read it.

It was even better this time. That is one of the marks of an outstanding book for me, a book that bears up under the pressure
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of a reread.

The story is that of Tree-ear, an orphan, living in twelfth-century Korea. He lives under a bridge with a fellow outcast, Crane-man, a man who is only able to hobble about with the help of a cane. The two survive by scavenging. Then Tree-ear accidentally breaks a pot of one of his village’s greatest potters, Min, and, to compensate for his carelessness, he goes to work for Min. Tree-ear dreams of learning Min’s trade, but Min is an angry man who feels only a son should learn a father’s trade and he regards Tree-ear as no son of his. Min and his wife are childless, having lost their son earlier in life. Min’s wife gradually comes to love Tree-ear and, even more slowly, Min does, too. When a representative of the king visits the village in search of a new potter for the royal family, Min’s work is found to be worthy of a closer look. To show his work to the king, Tree-ear offers to take Min’s pottery on a long journey to the royal city. It is a trip fraught with danger. Along the way, Tree-ear is besieged by robbers and, in the process, all of Min’s work is destroyed. Tree-ear, though discouraged, does not give up. He takes an intact shard of Min’s pottery to the king and the tiny piece of Min’s work is enough to give Min a commission to the king. Tree-ear loses his friend, Crane-man, but acquires for the first time both a family and a vocation with Min and his wife.
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LibraryThing member bkoopman
A homeless boy in Korea learns the art of pottery from a master who doesn't want to teach him. Eventually, the potter allows the boy to do more than just dig clay from the mountain sides. When the master is chosen to bring his pots to the royal court, the boy uncovers a secret that changes pottery
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forever in Korea.

I enjoyed reading this book very much. It was an easy read, but the ideas were original, and the setting was vivid. It is perfect for the intermediate reader who enjoys realistic fiction with cultural immersion.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Tree-ear is an orphan who lives in a 12th century Korean village known for its pottery. He spends his days searching for food for himself and his friend, Crane-man, and he always stops to watch the potter, Min, as he works. Min is the best potter in the village, and Tree-ear dreams of learning to
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make pottery as fine as Min's. When Tree-ear accidentally breaks one of Min's works, it provides him with an unexpected opportunity to become Min's assistant in order to work off his debt. Tree-ear is gradually given more responsibilities. When he is called on to make a long journey on Min's behalf, Tree-ear must remember all he has learned from living with Crane-man and from watching Min in his work.

Some years I wonder what the judges were thinking when they selected the Newbery Medal winner. Not this time. Every element of the story works – plot, character, historical detail, and educational value. It could be used as supplemental reading for social studies or art. It will provide opportunities for discussing values such as honesty, patience, courage, kindness, respect, and friendship. Since the book transcends traditional childhood concerns and themes, it can be enjoyed equally by adults and children. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member eduscapes
Winner of the Newbery award for children's writing, this book focuses on an orphan named Tree-Ear and his quest to become a potter during the middle ages in Korea. When I was in South Korea I bought copies of this book in Korean. They had different versions with different illustrations.
LibraryThing member readaholic12
One of my all time favorites - what a beautiful little book. It made me want to learn more about early Korean history and pottery making.
LibraryThing member dee_kohler
Great book about orphaned boy that wants to learn to create celadon pottery in 11th century Korea. A lovely story, rich characters, afterword that explains how the author came up with characters and truth behind the story. Read more of her work.
LibraryThing member LeHack
A poor worker in 11th century Korea works hard to become an apprentice to a potter and learns to make beautiful celadon vases. The story is about Tree Ear and his friend and the obstacles and troubles they have to overcome. Excellent book.
LibraryThing member Omrythea
Homeless, orphaned Tree-Ear admires the work of a master potter, Min who makes beautiful celadon pottery. Tree-Ear serves as an apprentice to Min and must prove his worth. Set in mid to late 12th century Korea.
LibraryThing member juliette07
This is an apparently simple story as an orphan dreams of becoming a potter one day. Tree ear grows up in a very difficult world which is carefully yet simply portrayed. The characters are life like and richly developed. Throughout Tree ear has to make choices – who knows if they are right or
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wrong. At the start of the book his motives are fairly self centred, he wants to become a potter. By the end he undertakes a challenge for someone else and en route – becomes lost in his work as he makes a clay monkey for his friend ‘Crane – man’.

This friend is the one who imparts the words ‘My friend, the same wind that blows one door shut often blows another open.’ These resonated with me as I remembered how often have I used this saying to children as they move on from one school to another.

In her author’s note Linda Sue Park tells us that “Every piece described in the book actually exists in a museum or private collection somewhere in the world”. To see pictures of some of the pottery, including the Thousand Cranes Vase, she tells you to go to her web site. Unfortunately I found that the picture was not in fact on her web site. Please let me know if you know differently.

Tree-ear is a fictional character, the fictional merges with fact as Park suggests that perhaps such a vase, depicting the crane as a tribute to his beloved Crane-man, might have been made by a young potter like Tree-ear. One of the points I think Park is trying to make is that Tree-ear’s art may exist over 800 years after its creation; it might be on display in a museum; it might even be the impetus for the writing of a young adult novel.

In the author’s note we find that Tree ear’s achievements have not only brought a sense of satisfaction and self-understanding to Tree-ear but that his efforts may have touched generations of people who came after him. Perhaps the same is true of our work ….

I would recommend this book at many levels and will do so to a friend of mine who loves turning!
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LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
From the first page I read, I knew this was going to be a beautiful book. Park's style is simple and emotional, describing the feelings and relationships perfectly. I truly believed the thoughtful friendship between Crane Man and Tree-Ear, and I love how Park set up Tree-Ear's inner struggle to be
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honorable, which was the driving force of the whole book.

Though I predicted the tragedy at the end, I still cried. The grief was deep and honest. And the historical note tied it all together nicely. Overall, a gorgeous glimpse into an underappreciated time and place with lovingly-drawn characters.
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LibraryThing member joanne747
It sort of got my attention as I read it. Even though it is a good book and it got my attention, I didn't really liked it. I had to read it due to the novel study project that my Eng. class is working on. In all, I give this book 3 stars!
LibraryThing member fullerl
Tree-Ear is an orphan who, with the help of a fatherly friend named Crane-Man, scrape out a living rummaging through trash heaps and learning to read the world around them. Tree-Ear is a resourceful and optimistic young man with an eye for something of beauty - pottery. Growing up in 12th century
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Korea, Tree-Ear knows the value of the art of pottery making. He loves to watch a local potter, Min, create his pieces of art. When he thinks no one is around, Tree-Ear decides to examine the pottery up close. When the potter suddenly returns and surprises Tree-Ear, one of the pieces if broken. To pay for the loss to the potter, Tree-Ear agrees to work for Min. Thus begins an unusual relationship between servant and master. Tree-Ear is a faithful worker and soon learns his tasks.

Through a series of events, Tree-Ear ends up on the road to the capital to take a sample of a new piece of pottery for the inspection of the emissary with the hopes of receiving a royal commission. Unfortunately, things do not go well for Tree-Ear and all he left with to show at the royal court is a single shard of pottery, all that is left of Min's fine work.

This story is rich with cultural and historical information and adds depth for the reader. Within its pages, this novel the ideas of what makes us who we are, the difficulties of pride, and what makes a family.
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LibraryThing member hc1986
This is a wonderful book. A twelve year old orphaned boy named Tree-ear, lives under a bridge with a crippled man named Crane-man in 12th century Korea. He spends his days foraging for his next meal and spying on the best of the local potters, an gruff older man named Min. When Tree-ear accidently
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breaks a piece of Min's pottery, he finds himself doing menial chores for Min to pay off his debt. In addition to teaching the reader a bit about making pottery, especially celadon wares, the story goes on to describe Min's chance at securing a royal commission for his work, Tree-ear's involvment in same, and Tree-ear's lifelong dream to learn from Min the art of making pottery. Along the way, author Linda Sue Park masterfully weaves the themes of courage, survival honesty, hope, death and family into the story. This book is suggested for an age group of around 5th through 8th grades. I am reading it (for the second time) in order to help my 4th grader do a book report and project. I think that the younger set would need some guidance to identify and fully understand some of the themes involved, but I would also recommend it without hesitation to anyone beyond that age level.
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LibraryThing member patricia_poland
This tale of an orphan who becomes a potter's apprentice also is a story of great courage. 2002 Newbery winner. Very fine writing carries the reader all the way to the very significant 'single shard'.
LibraryThing member michelleramos
A young orphan girl lives under a bridge outside a small Korean village. She meets a potter and tried to learn from him so that she can survive. He is really rough on her, but she learns a lot. In the end she not only learns a wonderful skill, but a live skill as well.
LibraryThing member shaunnas
Outstanding! The young man in this story overcomes so much. He chooses integrity, devotion, hard work, and hope.
LibraryThing member StephJoan
My girls and I listened to this in the car. One day we were running errands and when we got to the parking lot of the store, we sat there in the car unable to get out because we were so sucked into the story.
LibraryThing member meallen1
This book is a historical fiction book. There are very little art in this book. It is about story of a 12 year old boy named Tree-ear living in the 12th century. He is an orphan and lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o with Crane-man, a crippled man. Tree-ear scavenges for food most of the time but
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after a full meal, Tree-ear loves to watch potter Min make his pottery. Tree-ear offers to work for him for free in hope of getting to make his own pot. Tree-ear then does various tasks but never has the chance to make his own pot. Tree-ear then learns Min will not teach him how to make a pot because of the tradition of a potter teaching it to his son and Min's son is dead. The reading level is fifth or sixth grade. The curricular connection is history.
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LibraryThing member sdglenn
Great for grades 3-5. Great for teaching history. Tree-ear, a thirteen-year-old orphan in medieval Korea, lives under a bridge in a potters' village, and longs to learn how to throw the delicate celadon ceramics himself.
LibraryThing member jodyjlittle
Tree-Ear is a homeless youth who is fascinated with the work of a local potter, Min. One day he accidentally breaks a piece of Min's pottery and the old man scolds him severely, but Tree-Ear begs Min to let him work off what he owes. Min finally agrees but gives Tree-Ear the laborious tasks of
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chopping wood for the kiln and digging for clay. Tree-Ear works hard and shares his experiences with his friend, Crane-Man. When the emissary comes to the villiage to select a potter to commission work, Tree -Ear is certain that the potter selected will be Min, but one day he glances another local potter's work. This potter, Kang, is creating designs that Tree-Ear has never seen before, using an in-lay technique. Kang's work is selected, and Min sets out to learn the new technique. Tree-Ear continues to work with him and learn the art of pottery. When Min finally finishes pots worthy to send to the emissary, Tree-Ear agrees to deliver them. In an unfortunate run-in with bandits, the pots are destroyed, but Tree-ear finds one single shard with evidence of the in-lay and Min's extraordinary skill which he takes to the emissary.
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LibraryThing member Yoshikawa
I found this story surprisingly short and soothing...
LibraryThing member cakebaker
Tree-ear, an orphan living in twelfth century Korea, lives off of scraps from rubbish heaps and food found growing wild. He continues this meager existance until he begins working for Min, a master potter. Since Tree-ear's greatest desire is to learn how to make a pot, he works hard for Min, though
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Min yells at him and his only pay is a noon meal. However, after months of working for Min, Tree-ear finds that Min has no intention of ever teaching him the art of pottery. This is an excellent book for both boys and girls. No pictures in book (just cover).
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
Tree Ear is an orphan, living under a bridge with a homeless man called Crane Man. After breaking on of Potter Min's pots by accident, Tree Ear agrees to go work for the potter, hoping to learn the trade himself.

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