This is an apparently simple story as an orphan dreams of becoming a potter one day. Tree ear grows up in a very difficult world which is carefully yet simply portrayed. The characters are life like and richly developed. Throughout Tree ear has to make choices – who knows if they are right or wrong. At the start of the book his motives are fairly self centred, he wants to become a potter. By the end he undertakes a challenge for someone else and en route – becomes lost in his work as he makes a clay monkey for his friend ‘Crane – man’.
This friend is the one who imparts the words ‘My friend, the same wind that blows one door shut often blows another open.’ These resonated with me as I remembered how often have I used this saying to children as they move on from one school to another.
In her author’s note Linda Sue Park tells us that “Every piece described in the book actually exists in a museum or private collection somewhere in the world”. To see pictures of some of the pottery, including the Thousand Cranes Vase, she tells you to go to her web site. Unfortunately I found that the picture was not in fact on her web site. Please let me know if you know differently.
Tree-ear is a fictional character, the fictional merges with fact as Park suggests that perhaps such a vase, depicting the crane as a tribute to his beloved Crane-man, might have been made by a young potter like Tree-ear. One of the points I think Park is trying to make is that Tree-ear’s art may exist over 800 years after its creation; it might be on display in a museum; it might even be the impetus for the writing of a young adult novel.
In the author’s note we find that Tree ear’s achievements have not only brought a sense of satisfaction and self-understanding to Tree-ear but that his efforts may have touched generations of people who came after him. Perhaps the same is true of our work ….
I would recommend this book at many levels and will do so to a friend of mine who loves turning!