When I was going to UGA I remember my wonderful ceramics teacher Ted Saupe telling us about how lovely this book was to read. He even said it made him cry. Years and years later I was thinking about a gift for a 9-year-old girl that was into pottery, so I ordered it and decided to read it first. I’m sure you’re wondering, did I cry? Yes, I did! It’s such a heartfelt and beautiful story, that even if you aren’t a potter you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty and profound meaning that this art medium had in Korea in the 12th century. This book reminded me of the humbleness of this art, and how we’re honoring its history by continuing to make pottery. It’s impossible not to connect with the characters of the book. I was touched touch by every single one.
A Single Shard
Clarion Books, 2001
Ages 9 and up
A Single Shard is a novel by Linda Sue Park, set in 12th-century Korea. It won the 2002 Newbery Medal, awarded for excellence in children’s literature; it also received an honorable mention from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature.
“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, School Library Journal, starred review