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A Single Shard

In A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, the main character, Tree-ear, is an orphan boy in a twelfth-century Korean potter’s village. Tree-ear lives under the bridge with his friend Crane-man and loves to watch his favorite potter, Min, throwing pots. Tree-ear accidentally breaks one of Min’s pots and offers to work for Min to pay for the damage. Min and Tree-ear both learn that life moves on even when loved ones die.

Tree-ear is a Korean orphan boy who lives under a bridge with Crane-Man, who is crippled. Tree-ear wants to become a great potter someday, and he watches Min, a master potter, throw pots on a wheel. When Tree-ear accidentally breaks one of Min’s pots he sees an opportunity and offer to work for Min to repay the broken pot.

Tree-ear is hoping that if he works long enough for Min he will get to learn to make pottery, but when Tree-ear asks if he can make a pot Min says that he won’t teach him. Min says that pottery is an art passed down from father to son, and Tree-ear is not his son. Min’s son Hyung-gu died a long time ago and Min is still bitter and unable to let go of his son.

Tree-ear continues to work for Min, gathering wood and preparing clay, doing his best work and sharing his food with Crane-man. One day word comes that an emissary from the King’s Court is coming to look for a new potter, a very rare occasion. Min sends Tree-ear to show his pottery before the emissary. Tree-ear returns with a royal commission for Min.

Tree-ear was surprised that Min did not seem happier with the royal commission, but then Min tells him that Crane-man was in an accident and killed. Min tells Tree-ear to find a large stump of wood because he will need his own wheel if he is going to help Min with the royal commission. Ajima, Min’s wife, invites Tree-ear to live with them, and asks if he would like to be called Hyung-pil, a name that shares a syllable with their dead son’s name. This was an honor bestowed upon siblings.

In conclusion, Min and Tree-ear both learn that loved ones do die but life still moves on and is better when you don’t hold onto whoever has died and not let go of them. I thought the book was really good because the whole thing seemed very realistic. I especially liked the idea that the whole village ran mostly on the pottery industry. I do suggest this book for others to read. Despite its lack of dragons and magic, it is still a very good book.


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A Single Shard

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