Monday, January 26, 2015

Newbery Reviews: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2002 Medal Winner)

A Single Shard is a good read, but not a great read. It is short, relatively easy to read, and somewhat educational.

In 12th century Korea, young Tree-ear lives under a bridge with his crippled, adopted grandfather, dreaming of becoming a pottery artisan, when he breaks a very expensive piece created by the great china maker Min. To pay off his debt, Tree-ear becomes Min's assistant, hoping to get his hands on the throwing wheel, only to be put to menial tasks such as taking out the garbage. But then, Min gives him a precious and dangerous duty: travel to a great city, and show one of Min's greatest vases to an interested royal. When robbers attack and shatter Tree-ear's sacred cargo, he must figure out what to do.

The book is appealing mostly because of its diversity, unusual setting (I mean, 12th century Korea!), and detailed descriptions of the process of Korean pottery-making. But this last item may also be the book's downfall. There are long chunks of type elaborating on the details of the process, and while I appreciate the research involved, a young reader would likely yawn and skip to the next part.

Otherwise, the book is easy to read, light, and enjoyable, without much intensity. The characters are not overboard, and nothing world-shattering happens, though Tree-ear might certainly think so when Min's pot is destroyed. It was one of those books I read, said, "That was nice," and opened the next on my to-be-read list.

Rating: Three stars
Favorite character: Min's wife
Favorite line: "Of one thing he was certain. The feast-day banquets in the palace of the king could never better the modest meal before him, for he had earned it."
Recommended age: 8+
Content level for parents: In a story told to Tree-ear, a number of women literally jump off a cliff to their deaths.

For more Marvelous Middle Grade reviews, check out Shannon Messenger's post here


  1. I disagree - I think it's a great book. My kids loved this book. It triggered a deeper interest in Asian history, and was the perfect story for then (boys) at the right time.

  2. A book set in this time and place sounds very interesting. My granddaughter takes clay classes and I think would be very interested in this one. Thanks for the review.

  3. I loved this book as well. I read it several years ago, but I still think of it often. I found the pottery process intriguing, and I loved its lyrical quality.

  4. I loved this one too! But I think it depends on the kind of books you like. It did have a slower pace than some.