A Single Shard

In 12th century Korea, Tree-ear watches the master potter Min at work. He knows every potter in his village – but from their rubbish heaps, as they work away from prying eyes. Only Min works in plain view, and Tree-ear knows his routine. After breaking one of his pieces, Tree-ear offers to work for Min to pay for the damage.

Min allows Tree-ear to continue helping him – he cannot pay Tree-ear for his work, but Tree-ear wants only to learn the craft of the potter. Tree-ear stays, and learns, and embarks on a journey to showcase Min’s work to the king.

Though pottery in 12th century Korea may not be the most intuitive subject for a children’s book, Park’s novel is eloquently and gracefully told, and unobtrusively presents universal lessons for its reader on the importance of self-confidence, of perseverance and of knowing your own heart when faced with an ethical decision. This novel is a poignant reminder of the value of resilience and believing in yourself, and showcases how powerfully love for another person can motivate and inspire. It’s timeless and insightful, a gentler option among explosive fantasies for quieter readers who want to be taken along on an important adventure like an old friend.