A Single Shard

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.
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Clarion Books
New York
ISSN Number
0-395-97827-0 (hardcover)
Average: 4.8 (41 votes)


Please login to review this resource

A Single Shard, Review by Givon Ellison

Field of Interest/Specialty: Language Arts
Posted On: 01/20/2020

A Single Shard is a book of many themes beneficial to late elementary and middle school aged readers. Themes like Respect and Empathy, and Honor and Hard Work are very evident in this 12th Century novel set in Korea. Tree-ear is the main character of this novel and his experiences and encounters are what drive this book. Tree-ear an orphan is taught by Crane-man, a disabled homeless father figure, to live life with honor and respect even though they are homeless and live under a bridge. Tree-man has the good fortune of meeting several other influential people that help him and Cran-man throughout the story ultimately turning Tree-ear into a success by the end of the story. I truly recommend this novel for the lessons the reader will learn alone, but it is an interesting novel that lets you into the rich Korean culture of the time.

A Single Shard in Kamishibai

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art
Posted On: 01/11/2020

A Single Shard book review by Mary H Lukas, EASD
I am an art teacher, kindergarten through fifth grade in Easton, Pennsylvania. Time is limited to 40 minutes per week, per grade level and in the art room, we realistically would not read a book. I am limited to short video clips that enhance the concepts I am teaching. I searched for a synopsis of A Single Shard (animation) but had trouble finding one. The story is beautifully told and I would love for my fifth graders to experience it when we do our unit on clay. It would be nice if this story was available in the format of Kamishibai, a technique of Japanese story-telling where the story is illustrated on stiff card stock on one side and is written on the other side. The text for each picture is written on the back of the previous picture. The story is typically told in about 12 story cards. Kamishibai pictures are painted big and bold and often presented with or without a stage. It’s a more theatrical way to tell a story.
This book would also lend itself to introducing students to celadon glaze, inlay technique for decoration on clay and Korean style landscape painting.

Review of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (submitted by Maureen Leitzel)

Field of Interest/Specialty: Literature
Posted On: 12/27/2019

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park details the story of Tree-ear who is a Korean orphan boy in the 12th Century who lives with Crane- man under a bridge. Tree-ear came to live with Crane-man as a young child, and they spend their days scavenging for food and living off what they find. One day, Tree-ear in observing the work of Min, a master potter, breaks one of Min’s pieces and endeavors to work off the debt. He hopes that he will eventually learn from the master and dreams of making his own pieces someday. Once the debt is paid, he continues to work for Min and his wife and shares his food from the day with Crane-man. He believes in the value of Min’s work, and knows that Min is deserving of a royal commission. He makes the arduous journey to Songdo in order to present two of Min’s vases for review by Emissary Kim in hopes of securing this commission. Despite the dangers on the journey with the precious vases broken in the process, Tree-ear remains hopeful that the beauty and intricacy of Min’s work will be seen in the single shard that remains. This story portrays the courage of a young boy who believes in the skill and value of the work of his master. Something of use can also be something of beauty. The relationship between Tree-ear and Crane-man shows the beauty of family in the many forms that it can take. Their friendship is based on love and mutual respect. This respect extends towards how they view fellow human beings and the world around them. This is an excellent novel for use in middle school. It teaches the value of perseverance and hard work. It also shares the beauty of Korean pottery, and the values of Korean culture through the wisdom of Crane-man. I would definitely include this novel in my curriculum.

Excellent book for students to understand the significance of Korean Pottery

Field of Interest/Specialty: Visual Arts
Posted On: 11/22/2019

This book was written with the upper elementary, early middle school student in mind. The story follows a homeless young boy in Korea who aspires to become a potter, yet the tradition must be passed down from father to son. The book does a great job at explaining traditional techniques in Korean pottery for the young reader. One is left with a new appreciation for the craft, as well as an understanding of economic status, societal relationships and norms within the time period in which it is set. I recommend this book highly!

Middle School Review for A SIngle Shard

Field of Interest/Specialty: Reading/Language Arts/Gifted esucation
Posted On: 05/13/2019

Lisa Meador-Ervine
Book Review
A Single Shard
Linda Sue Park
The main character in this book, Tree-ear, is an orphan who lives with elderly, crippled Crane Man near a bridge. He is fascinated by the celadon pottery of Master Min. When he is caught spying on the potter, he agrees to pay for the damage he has done by working for nine days. Tree-ear gains favor with Master Min and agrees to undertake a dangerous journey to present samples of Min’s work at the court to try to obtain a royal commission.
This book, set in 12th century Korea is an excellent choice for young readers. The details and descriptions will appeal to both male and female readers. The author takes care to include Korean traditional tales in the text as well as the ongoing story.
Students as young as fourth grade and as old as eight grade can appreciate the story. There may be concerns for the younger readers as one of the characters does die during the story. The death is not described in great detail and is treated with respect and with understanding.
I would recommend this book for individual reading or as a whole class novel. There are many aspects of Korean history and culture that can be introduced while reading this text. These include the history and value of celadon pottery and family relationships in Korea.

Loved it. Highly Recommend reading!

Field of Interest/Specialty: Special Education / ELA
Posted On: 01/21/2019

I am a 7th special educator in an urban district with a student population that is almost 80% Hispanic. As I started to read A Single Shard, in the back of my mind I thought that my students would not appreciate this. I thought it started out a little slowly, but now realize that is part of the aura of the book. The writer weaves a tale that would hold a reader's interest. The dynamic of Crane-man and Tree-ear is one of interdependence; they needed each other, but they also loved each other. Crane-man did an awesome job raising Tree-ear, as he is a very polite and honest child, as evidenced by how honest he is when he finds the rice; his honesty is rewarded when the man lets him keep what he has found. We see further evidence of Tree-ears devotion to Crane-man when he goes to work for Min, and Ajima (Min's wife) begins feeding him. I won't ruin the plot point as to what Tree-ear does, but it is sweet. By the middle of the book,I was invested in these characters and shed a tear or two, both happy and sad. When I finished, I came to the conclusion that even my students would appreciate the story; that being said, A Single Shard is the perfect title, representative of more than, I think, the pottery. It's a reflection of what a single act of kindness, charity or good will can do in one's life. I loved, loved, loved this book.


Field of Interest/Specialty: General Education
Posted On: 01/21/2019

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is a must read! Before reading this book, I knew very little about the Asian culture. Through reading this book, the author embeds so many Asian traditions, so the reader can seamlessly follow along. The reader learns about the value of fine quality pottery through the work of Tree-Ear's apprenticeship with Min. Also, the reader learns the value of paying it forward, as it relates to Asian culture through the relationship between Tree-Ear's relationship with both Crane-Man and Min's wife. After reading this, I have a greater appreciation for the pottery work done during this time period and how seriously it was taken by the local potters. Thank you to Linda Sue Park for opening the world's eyes to this beautiful culture and time in history.

A Single Shard- An endearing story

Field of Interest/Specialty: Fourth Grade
Posted On: 01/07/2019

A Single Shard is in the genre of historical fiction. In my opinion this was an endearing story about a homeless Korean orphan named Tree -ear. He was named this by his care taker, Crane-man. Crane-man was also homeless, and had a bad leg. Hence his name Crane-man. The story goes that a child was intended to be brought to the monks in the coast village in the mid 1100s. However, the monastery was closed, so the child was left with the homeless man under the bridge. No one ever came to retrieve him, so Crane-man raised him. He called him Tree Ear because he reminded him of the solitary fungi that grow on old tree trunks.
The village of Ch’ulp’o was well known in ancient Korea for its pottery. The story begins as Tree-ear secretly watches the master potter Min throw his clay and form beautiful vases in Min’s backyard. One day Tree-ear was discovered by Min because he was startled and broke several pieces. At that time, Tree-ear agreed to work for Min to pay for the pottery he broke. This was very hard work chopping the wood to fire the kilns in the village, but Tree-ear soon became accustomed to it. The potter’s wife also feed him. He was very grateful. He took food home for Crane-man too. He was hired to stay on for food for over a year.
The climax of the story happens when the royal emissary comes from the palace to hire a potter on commission to the Emperor. A rival potter discovers how to create a new design with inlay on the pottery. Tree-ear discovers this, but out of honor does not tell Min. However, after the rival’s wares are shown the secret is out. Min begins to make this same design but with more care and intricate detail. Min has a disaster when his pottery does not come out of the kiln correctly and is ruined. He fears that he will never get the commission. All the while, Tree-ear dreams of being a master potter like Min. But Min refuses to train him because Tree-ear is an orphan and Min’s son died.
Tree-ear convinces Min to make another vase, and he (Tree-ear) will take it to the Emperor’s man. This is a long journey. He makes it almost to the capital city when he is accosted by thieves. They rob him and throw the vases off the cliff. Tree-ear searches until he finds a good-sized shard that shows Min’s beautiful design inlaid. He takes this to the Emperor’s man. The trip is successful! The Emperor hires Min, and Min invites Tree-ear to be his student and learn the craft. The potter’s wife renames Tree-ear Hyung-pil which has a syllable of the deceased son. He was very honored. However, there was a sad aspect of the story. When Tree-ear returned from the big city with his good news, he learns that his friend Crane-man has died. Apparently, he was on the bridge. There was an accident where Crane-man was knocked off the bridge into the water and died. Tree-ear was very sad. He was invited to stay with Min and his wife.
The story has a bittersweet ending with Tree-ear finally finding a home and learning a trade. It is told that there is a beautiful vase that still exists today in a museum in Japan. The ancient vase has flying cranes on it. It was from this time period. The author unknown… could this be Tree-ear’s work…
I would love to read this story in my class as a read aloud. The students could draw beautiful vases with different designs. We could also research how to make pottery.

Simple Shard- a pottery study

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art
Posted On: 12/03/2018

The Single Shard, a book written by Linda Sue Park, is a wonderful tale of a boy, Tree-ear and his journey on becoming a master potter. This story beautifully explains how Korean Celedon pottery is created by hand by the earth itself. There is something really beautiful about the character Tree-ear, his respect for the elderly, the reverence for the craft, and the self-lessness he displays with his friend, Crane-man, who together they live under a bridge.
This book would be used for 5th graders, but to used in direct relation to making pottery. This book would create in my students a sense of appreciation and wonder. It would show my students the rich history of how pottery was used, how it was valued, and how it was created in the mid-late 12th century.
For young grades, 3rd-4th, I would read this book aloud each week before we started working on our pottery projects, spending 9 weeks on this book.

A Single Shard: A Moral Point of View

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art
Posted On: 11/27/2018

This is a wonderful book that examines the Buddhist religion and Confucianism belief systems. Tree-ear lives in a Buddhist culture where monks aid the poor and summon prayer by ringing bells. Roles of authority are clearly indicated when Tree-ear addresses Min’s wife, and the respect he shows his elders. The story demonstrates Confucianism in the role of relationships. Ruler to subject; husband to wife; father to son; teacher to student and friend to friend. By the encouragement of Crane-man, Tree-ear had developed the Confucian mindset by the age of ten; “Scholars read the great words of the world, but you and I must learn to read the world itself”. One could use this book to explore the values and morals of Confucianism and Buddhism.
I was thinking that one could use the book to have students explore East Asian religion and beliefs. Because I am an art teacher, I wanted to add some twists like the yin and yang concept. Students could explore what animal he or she would be in his or her next life; as if they were Buddhists, just as Crane-man wondered what animal he would be in the next life. Students could explore the meanings of different animals and the morals related to each animal. As an interesting project, students could combine aspects of their personalities and moral values, determine the animal associated with each aspect or value and create fictional combined animals. Students could create a drawing like the yin and yang symbol showing the movement of how their personality exists within themselves.
I really enjoyed the story and recommend this for students from fourth grade through middle school age.