A Single Shard

Average Rating:
41 Reviews
TitleA Single Shard
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsPark, Linda Sue
Number of Pages148
PublisherClarion Books
CityNew York
ISBN0-395-97827-0 (hardcover)

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.


Supplemental Contributions

Members of the community have contributed the following materials as supplements to A Single Shard.

Title Attached Files Contributed By Contributed On Link

Ceramics Unit for A Single Shard

Unit for art teachers by Malia Bennett in two files, Trinity Area High School (Pittsburgh site)

2 Malia Bennett 11/8/11

More >

A Single Shard/summary and activities

summary and a variety of activities for multiple grade levels

1 Katherine Hoffer 9/29/10

More >

Average Rating:
41 Reviews

Reviews for A Single Shard


Posted By: Givon Ellison

Posted On: January 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.


Posted By: Mary H Lukas

Posted On: January 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.


Posted By: Maureen Leitzel

Posted On: December 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.


Posted By: William Casey

Posted On: November 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!


Posted By: A. Meador-Ervine

Posted On: May 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.