Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

An orphaned boy in 12th century Korea pursues his dream of becoming a potter.


"A Single Shard" is a Newbery Medal-winning novel written by Linda Sue Park. Set in 12th-century Korea, the story follows a young orphan named Tree-ear who dreams of becoming a potter. Throughout the book, Tree-ear encounters numerous challenges and experiences personal growth as he strives to achieve his aspirations. The novel beautifully weaves themes of perseverance, determination, and the importance of artistry into its narrative.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in a small village called Ch’ulp’o, located in 12th-century Korea. Tree-ear, the protagonist, is an orphan who lives under the care of Crane-man, a disabled beggar. Despite his challenging circumstances, Tree-ear dreams of becoming a potter and learning the craft from Min, a renowned potter in the village.


The setting of "A Single Shard" is a rural Korean village during the 12th century. The village is surrounded by lush forests, rolling hills, and the serene presence of the nearby sea. The people in the village lead simple lives, where pottery-making is a revered tradition, and the natural beauty of the surroundings serves as a backdrop for the unfolding narrative.

Main Characters

The story revolves around several key characters, each contributing to the richness of the plot.

Tree-earAn orphaned boy with a strong desire to become a potter. He is determined and resourceful, often finding ways to pursue his dreams despite the odds.
MinA skilled potter who takes Tree-ear under his wing. He is initially skeptical of Tree-ear's intentions but later becomes a mentor to him.
Crane-manA disabled beggar who cares for Tree-ear. He provides wisdom and guidance to the young protagonist throughout the story.

Summary of Events

Chapters 1-3

Tree-ear, an orphan, lives under the care of Crane-man in Ch’ulp’o, where he dreams of becoming a potter. He admires Min, a skilled potter in the village, and longs to learn the craft from him. Despite his lack of formal training, Tree-ear possesses a deep appreciation for pottery.

Chapters 4-6

Tree-ear is given the opportunity to deliver Min's pottery to the royal court. On his journey, he encounters various obstacles, including the theft of the pottery by a bandit. However, he perseveres and ultimately reaches his destination.

Chapters 7-9

At the royal court, Tree-ear faces scrutiny as he presents the pottery to the emissary. Despite the challenges, he demonstrates courage and resilience. He then returns to Ch’ulp’o, where he continues to learn from Min and hone his skills.

Chapters 10-12

Tree-ear is tasked with creating a single shard for a commission, a task that requires precision and patience. He faces setbacks but remains determined to succeed. His dedication and perseverance impress Min and the villagers.

Main Events

  1. Tree-ear's aspiration to become a potter and his admiration for Min's craftsmanship.
  2. The journey to deliver Min's pottery to the royal court, encountering challenges along the way.
  3. Tree-ear's resilience and determination during his presentation at the royal court.
  4. The task of creating a single shard, showcasing Tree-ear's perseverance and skill.

Themes and Insights


  1. Perseverance: The novel emphasizes the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity, as seen through Tree-ear's unwavering determination to pursue his passion for pottery.
  2. Artistry and Craftsmanship: The art of pottery-making is celebrated throughout the story, highlighting the significance of creativity and skill in traditional crafts.
  3. Resilience: Tree-ear's resilience in overcoming challenges and setbacks serves as a central theme, inspiring readers to confront difficulties with strength and determination.


The novel provides insights into the value of mentorship, the power of self-belief, and the beauty of finding purpose and fulfillment in one's craft.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Single Shard" offers readers a poignant and inspiring tale of perseverance, resilience, and the pursuit of one's passion. Through Tree-ear's journey, readers are reminded of the transformative power of dedication and the beauty of artistic expression.


Linda Sue Park's "A Single Shard" presents a captivating narrative set against the backdrop of 12th-century Korea, weaving together themes of perseverance, craftsmanship, and resilience. The story of Tree-ear's pursuit of his dreams serves as a timeless reminder of the strength found in unwavering determination and the fulfillment that comes from following one's aspirations.

A Single Shard FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Single Shard'?

    A Single Shard is a historical fiction novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Single Shard'?

    The author of 'A Single Shard' is Linda Sue Park.

  3. What is the setting of 'A Single Shard'?

    The book is set in 12th-century Korea, specifically in the village of Ch’ulp’o and the nearby town of Songdo.

  4. What is the main theme of 'A Single Shard'?

    The main themes of 'A Single Shard' include perseverance, the power of art, and the importance of community.

  5. What age group is 'A Single Shard' suitable for?

    The book is suitable for readers aged 10 and above.