Friday, August 8, 2008

A Single Shard: YA Novel Book Review

Publisher: Clarion books (April 23 2001)

Hardcover: 152 pages

Age Group: 9 to 12

ISBN: 10-0395978270

ISBN: 13-978-0395978276

Historical fiction novel, A Single Shard, is the 2002 Newbery Medal award winner. Sometimes you can get a hint of a story by the title. At first glance the title threw me off because it did not sound like the type of book a ten or 12-year old would read. Linda Sue Park gives readers insight to an unfamiliar period of twelfth-century Korea which chronicles the life of an orphan, a homeless man and a talented potter.

Tree-ear was named for a “mushroom that grows without benefit of parents” by Crane Man who was so called because of his one shriveled leg. No one knows where Tree-ear came from. Rumor had it that his parents were killed in an accident.

In order to survive Tree-ear rummages through garbage dumps and scavenges for food every day and if he is lucky he is able to pick up some left over rice that no one wants. Crain-man, who is a straw weaver, tries to do his part but because of his disability he is only able to manage some scavenging near the rivers edge where they live. Crane-man is the only family Tree-ear has ever known.

Tree-ear made a habit of stopping at potter Min’s outdoor studio to watch him create delicate celadon pottery. One day Tree-ear accidentally breaks a pot. In order to pay for damages, Tree-ear goes into servitude for nine days and ends up working full time for the potter. Naturally Tree-ear hopes Min will teach him the pottery trade but Min has no intention of training a boy who is not related to him. Min and Tree-ear begin a precarious relationship. This is a well-developed account of triumph of a boy who shouldn't have overcome the odds but did.

This story is well worth reading. The passages describing how this beautiful celadon pottery was made over 700 years ago will intrigue any reader. Park’s dialogue and prose are a prime example of the adage for writers. “Show don’t tell.”

About the Author: Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park was born and raised in Illinois. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was 4 years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.

Park was first published when she was 9 years old. She was paid one whole dollar for a haiku that ran in a children's magazine. Her father still has the one-dollar check in a frame above his desk.

Write it down,