Sally’s Rating: 3.5/5
Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard is surprisingly riveting for a story about one boy’s dream to learn how to craft pottery in twelfth-century Korea.
This book follows along the same lines as other Newbery winners Dobry and I, Juan de Pareja, wherein a young boy develops an interest in art and becomes an apprentice to someone who has already mastered the craft. Where it excels, though, is at incorporating the multicultural customs into a simple narrative that is both engaging and sympathetic.
Tree-ear, the main character, takes special care in learning how pottery is created and the reader can easily learn through his eyes the importance of the craft. I never felt like I was being lectured on the creation process and was never bored with learning all the steps involved; instead, it seemlessly blended in with the tale being told as Tree-Ear slowly gains respect for his master and his craft and, in return, gains a new family.
Belonging and self-discovery are the themes that are prevalent throughout as Tree-ear craves to be accepted by the potter and his family. Additionally, it was lovely to see him develop an appreciation for the potter’s wife and everything she did for him. Getting a glimpse into this culture was interesting and very enlightening. While the story was bit slow, the characters brought the whole narrative together as it was more about family obligations than adventure.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in this time period in Korean history. Additionally, those that love arts and crafts might learn a few things in this tale. Overall, its a heartwarming tale that is both charming and thoughtful.