Reviews for Single Shard
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 April 2001
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 4-8. When the polite greeting in a society is "Have you eaten well today?' one may guess that subsistence is of prime concern. Surely no one in this twelfth-century Korean village is more accustomed to hunger than the orphan boy Tree-ear and his guardian Crane-man who is lame. They sleep under a bridge in summer and in a pit in winter, eating what they can forage in the woods or garbage piles. At the age of 12, Tree-ear becomes an assistant to the potter Min. A hard taskmaster to himself and the boy, Min is the maker of the finest celadon ware in Ch'ul'po, a village known for its pottery. When Min entrusts two precious pots to Tree-ear to deliver to Songdo, the boy must make his way across miles of unknown territory, relying on his courage and wits to prove himself worthy of Min's trust. This quiet, but involving, story draws readers into a very different time and place. Though the society has its own conventions, the hearts and minds and stomachs of the characters are not so far removed from those of people today. Readers will feel the hunger and cold that Tree-ear experiences, as well as his shame, fear, gratitude, and love. A well-crafted novel with an unusual setting. ((Reviewed April 1, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Fall
Tree-ear, a twelfth-century Korean boy, wants desperately to become a potter of celadon ware like the revered and talented potter Min. Though homeless and orphaned, Tree-ear wins the approval of Min, eventually becoming an indispensable apprentice to him. While the characters are somewhat flat and the plot slow, Park's story is alive with fascinating information about life and art in ancient Korea. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2001 January #2
A homeless boy in a 12th-century Korean village makes himself surprisingly useful to a master potter. Tree-ear has been living with Crane-man under a bridge, scavenging for food and comfort until one day he watches Min, the potter, becoming so fascinatedhe later creeps back to look at the finished pots. Surprised in the act, one of the pots is broken and Tree-ear must work to pay for the damage. The work is strenuous. Tree-ear aches and bleeds, but gradually he becomes accustomed to the work. Min allowshim to continue to help in exchange for food from the master's kind wife. It is in the details that the story lays claim to a sort of Zen quality. Ethical decisions regarding acceptance of lunch and his responsibility to Crane-man are decided with fastidiousness and rectitude. Each choice of Tree-ear's shows an awareness of pride and dignity--not just for himself, but for Crane-man, Min, and his wife. Obtaining a royal commission to make pots worthy of the palace is at the heart of the plot. Intrigues, danger, and the same strong focus on doing what is right turn a simple story into a compelling read. Important details of the times are folded into the narrative without being obtrusive. Tree-ear's story conveys a time and place far away and long ago, but with a simplicity and immediacy that is both graceful and unpretentious. A timeless jewel. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 March #1
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. Readers will not soon forget these characters or their sacrifices. Ages 10-14. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2001 May
Gr 5-8-In this tale of courage and devotion, a single shard from a celadon vase changes the life of a young boy and his master. In 12th-century Korea, the village of Ch'ulp'o is famous for its pottery. The orphan Tree-ear spends his days foraging for food for himself and Crane-man, a lame straw weaver who has cared for him for many years. Because of his wanderings, Tree-ear is familiar with all of the potters in the village, but he is especially drawn to Min. When he drops a piece Min has made, Tree-ear begins to work for him to pay off his debt, but stays on after the debt is paid because he longs to learn to create beautiful pots himself. Sent to the royal court to show the king's emissary some new pottery, Tree-ear makes a long journey filled with disaster and learns what it means to have true courage. This quiet story is rich in the details of life in Korea during this period. In addition it gives a full picture of the painstaking process needed to produce celadon pottery. However, what truly stands out are the characters: the grumpy perfectionist, Min; his kind wife; wise Crane-man; and most of all, Tree-ear, whose determination and lively intelligence result in good fortune. Like Park's Seesaw Girl (1999) and The Kite Fighters (2000, both Clarion), this book not only gives readers insight into an unfamiliar time and place, but it is also a great story.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2002 April
In twelfth-century Korea, Tree-ear has been raised by Crane-man under a bridge in his small village, Ch'ulp'o, rather than by the monks, as is usual for orphans. At the age of thirteen, he has learned to fend for himself and to appreciate beauty in people and his surroundings. Ch'ulp'o is famous for its celadon pottery, and Tree-ear enjoys watching the work of the master Min, who throws his pots outdoors under the eaves of his house. Tree-ear finds himself owing Min nine days work, which quickly turns into an informal apprenticeship. By tradition, the craft of a potter is passed only from father to son, but Min's son is dead. Although the man has little room in his heart for anything but his work, Tree-ear's understanding of the craft develops over a year's time. The bonds between himself, Min, and Min's wife grow until an act of bravery and dedication on Tree-ear's part cements his own future as well as Min's. Park's text engages immediately, and her characters and setting are vivid. Historical details are included deftly, and in a lengthy author's note, Park describes her research process, letting the reader know what is documented and what is speculation. Her two other novels that take place in seventeenth and fifteenth century Korea for slightly younger readers are Seesaw Girl (Clarion, 1999) and The Kite Fighters (2000/VOYA August 2000). With scant historical fiction available in this area, this 2002 Newbery Award-winning book makes a unique offering, and its inviting length and appealing tone should find it wide use. Tree-ear and his companions might be just too truehearted for some, but the story's satisfying arc makes rich reading for those looking for an involving and insightful historical novel.-Nina Lindsay. This novel is a great book for young readers who enjoy historical fiction. They will enjoy learning about clay and about how artists in twelfth-century Korea made works of art. They also will like the character of Tree-ear and the way he matures and grows up. The ending brings both a happy and sad tear to the eye. This recommended book is a quick read for young teens.-Anna Yu (aka anna banana), Teen Reviewer. 4Q 3P M Copyright 2002 Voya Reviews