Linda Sue Park
A Single Shard
Late elementary/middle school
Tree Ear was orphaned when he was a baby, and taken to live with Crane Man, who was in a sense also orphaned. Crane Man’s deformity made it impossible for him to support himself through a job or trade. He lived under a bridge and scavenged for food. He was a good man and did not believe in stealing or begging. Tree Ear learned moral lessons from his guardian. Tree Ear often watched the famed Min throwing his pottery outside. One day he went to look and did not see Min so took a closer look. Min appeared, assuming he was being robbed, and Tree Ear dropped and ruined some of his unfinished work. He offered to work to pay off his misdeed, and work he did. He had hoped that the working would involve making some pottery himself, but he was subjected to fetching firewood from the deep forest for the fire. When his service was up, he asked to stay on to help. Min agreed, but could not pay Tree Ear. He did provide meals, which was payment enough for Tree Ear. Tree Ear was able to share the good food Min’s wife provided with Crane Man. Tree Ear grew strong and patient through his service to Min. He cut tree’s and gathered clay. He strained the clay repeatedly until he could not tell the difference in the strainings. Min could always tell. One day, Tree Ear could sense the difference. One day he too knew when it was ready. But Min was not ready to teach him his trade, he believed it was a trade to be passed down from father to son, and Tree Ear was no one’s son. Min’s wife grew to love Tree Ear and asked that he called her Ajima, which meant auntie. She took good care of him. Min’s life goal was to be commissioned to craft his pottery for the palace. When the representative came to judge the potter’s skills Min was looked at and recognized for his skill, but did not have the cutting edge new inlay detail that Kang discovered. Kang did not have the patience to create the perfection that Min demanded, but he had a new idea that caught the eye of the emissary. Min was challenged to create in the new style and bring his work to the palace at Songdo. He wasn’t able to because he was so old, but Tree Ear offered to go in his place. Min created masterpieces and Tree Ear made the long journey. He was robbed and the vases were broken, but a shard remained that he took the final distance, and it was enough to prove Min’s mastery of the new technique, so he was granted the job. Upon returning he learned Crane Man had died and Ajima and Min decided to take him in and teach him the craft of pottery. He had a new family.
Your Reaction: This was really hard to get into at first but it sucked you in slowly. I was not interested when I read the names Tree Ear and Crane Man, it was offsetting and I didn’t think I could get passed it, but I ended up loving what it teaches about patience and family. The story was better than it should have been. It mattered to me when he was robbed, which means I connected with the characters.
Potential Problems: Hunger. Poverty.
Recommendations: I’m not sure if I would recommend this to many. I would recommend it to someone with enough patience to get through the beginning to really connect to it. Less patient readers could be ruined by too many of these slow moving books.