A Single Shard
post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: A Single Shard
Author: Linda Sue Park
Major Themes: Korea, Pottery
Synopsis: A homeless orphan in 12th century Korea who dreams of becoming a potter begins working for the master potter in his village, hoping to learn the trade from him.
We really enjoyed A Single Shard when we read it the past two weeks. I first read it aloud a few years ago, and remember liking it then. It was even better this time!
A Single Shard is set in Korea in the 12th century, in a village of potters on the seacoast. Young Tree Ear, an orphan who lives under a bridge with a crippled man, spends his spare time hiding in a tree watching Min, the most skilled potter in the village. One day when Min is away, his curiosity gets the best of him and he dares to handle one of Min’s creations. When Min suddenly appears, Tree Ear drops the item and breaks it. In payment, he works for Min without pay for nine days. At the end of that time, Tree Ear offers to work for Min, hoping that he can learn to make pottery.
A story that includes competition between potters, stealth, robbery and tragedy, A Single Shard also portrays love and loyalty. Woven into the story is a lot of information about the art of pottery, especially the celadon ware developed in old Korea. After we finished reading the story and the afterword, which focussed on various types of pottery, one of my sons was inspired to look up how to make a pottery wheel on YouTube, and he dug up some clay and began making his own pottery creations.