Tree-Ear is a young orphan boy who lives under a bridge with his companion, Crane-man, in 12th century Korea. The two friends never know where their next meal is coming from, but what is lacking in food and money is made up for in heart and friendship.
When Tree-Ear is not scrounging for scraps of food, he watches master potter Min make his beautiful Korean Celadon pottery. One day he can't resist picking up a beautiful piece of pottery and ends up damaging the work. Because he can't repay Min in money, he agrees to work for Min to repay him in hopes of learning from this master potter. But Min has other things in store, and Tree-Ear finds himself doing excruciating manual labor.
When the king sends his emissary to find potters for a lifelong commission, Tree-Ear finds himself going on a journey that forever changes his life.
A Single Shard is a beautifully written and emotional novel about friendship, hope, love, and acceptance. Here's a passage near the beginning of the novel that particularly spoke to me:
The gentle curves of the vase, its mysterious green color. The sharp angle of the plum twigs, their blackness stark amid the airy white blossoms. The work of a human, the work of nature; clay from the earth, a branch from the sky. A kind of peace spread through Tree-Ear, body and mind, as if while he looked at the vase and its branch, nothing could ever go wrong in the world. (p. 52)But things do go wrong in the world as we witness Tree-Ear on both his physical journey and his emotional journey in the book. Through Tree-Ear's story, the reader also learns a lot about pottery making during the 12th century and the hard work involved in creating one single piece of celadon pottery. The Author's Note at the end of the book along with an essay about celadon pottery teach us more about the time period and the art of creating this rare and beautiful pottery.
This book is would make a good clean read aloud for an entire family, and children will enjoy going back into time and learning more about pottery making. Chock full of learning opportunities, this book would also make an excellent addition to any classroom curriculum.