A SINGLE SHARD
Park, Linda Sue. 2001. A SINGLE SHARD. New York: Scholastic (by arrangement with Clarion
Books.) ISBN: 0439445469.
A SINGLE SHARD is a story about a young orphan, Tree-ear, set in twelfth century Korea.
Tree-ear lives under a bridge with his friend, Crane-man. Crane-man is crippled and Tree-ear forages in rubbish heaps
for a living, but this is not enough for Tree-ear. Tree-ear is fascinated by the work of master potter, Min, and secretly
watches the master at work. Tree-ear dreams of someday making pottery like Min. Tree-ear takes the opportunity
to closely inspect Min's work one day when Min is not nearby. Tree-ear accidently breaks one of Min's works when Min
returns and suprises him,thinking Tree-ear is trying to steal. Tree-ear becomes Min's apprentice after he works
off his debt to Min. Min is in need of an apprentice at this time because Min has the chance to gain a royal commission.
When Tree-ear is sent to the capital with two examples of Min's best work, he meets with hazards and rewards beyond his imagining.
The story is set in a twelfth century Korean village known for its pottery, expecially
its celadon pottery. Park makes this culture and time period come alive in her writing. The profound respect that
people had for each other at that time is clearly demonstrated in the character of Tree-ear through his actions. Tree-ear
always bows before individuals to show respect and is careful to show his thanks and appreciation for anything that is done
for him. This helps the reader to understand the Asian culture from this time period.
A SINGLE SHARD lets the reader feel what it was like to live in a twelfth-century Korean
village through the eyes of Tree-ear. Tree-ear is approximately twelve or thirteen years old and is learning much about
himself as he becomes a young man. Park gives the reader important insights into the character as he develops from a
child to a young man. I though it was interesting that Park has Tree-ear asking himself important questions as he is
maturing, such as: "Was it stealing, to wait as Tree-ear had for more rice to fall before alerting the man that his
rice bag was leaking? Did a good deed balance a bad one? (p.6) Tree-ear comments that following his friend's advice
wasn't always easy. These situations show how the character, Tree-ear, is growing and developing as an individual, which
other young people can relate to. They may have the same type of questions.
Tree-ear must deal with themes that young people may struggle with today. The
situation in which Tree-ear wondered if it was stealing to wait before alerting the farmer that he was losing rice and when
he asked his friend if it was stealing an idea before the idea was made public are issues that young people may deal with
Park's style of writing is very clear and interesting. She does a wonderful
job of making the reader feel they are in Tree-ear's shoes in a twelfth-century Korean village. The reader feels Tree-ear's
pain when he learns of Crane-man's death. You feel his bittersweet joy when he is adopted by Min and his wife.
Park makes the reader feel how difficult Tree-ear's chores were as an apprentice: chopping wood, digging the clay, and
his disappointment when Min refuses to show Tree-ear how to throw a pot on the wheel.
A SINGLE SHARD is a very well-written novel that makes the reader feel intimately what
it would be like to live in a twelfth-century Korean village. After reading the novel, it is easy to understand why
this book won the Newbery Medal in 2002.
Taylor, Mildred D. 2001. THE LAND. New York: Scholastic (by arrangement with Phyllis
Fogelman Books.) ISBN: 0439434165.
Mildred Taylor's book THE LAND takes place shortly after the end of the Civil War during
the Reconstruction and is a prequel to ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. Paul Logan is a young man who fits into neither
the white or African-American world. His father, Edward Logan, is a white plantation owner and his mother is the former
slave of his father. Paul's father acknowledges Paul and his sister, Cassie, and raises them with his three white sons,
providing them with advantages many African-American children of the time would not have had. Paul struggles throughout
the book to find his place in the world. Many whites despise Paul because he is "of color" and many blacks despise him
and refer to him as a "white nigger."
The book describes Paul's life as he grows up and the title, THE LAND, refers to Paul's
goal of acquiring land as good as his father's that he grew up on. Paul succeeds in acquiring the land of his dreams,
and in the process goes through pain and sacrifice to do so.
The characters in THE LAND were based on Taylor's family which is explained in "A Note
to the Reader." "All of my books are based on stories told by my family, and on the history of the United States."
Taylor does a very good job making the reader fee what it was like to be a person of color living with descrimination that
occurred during the Reconstruction. One example of Paul facing discrimination occurred while he was working in the logging
camps. His white boss required Paul to work on Sunday with no pay. "And don't think you gettin' paid for
any Sunday workin' neither. You gonna put this day in for my satisfaction, and if you don't, I'll make you the same
promise I made you this mornin'. I'll call the sheriff on you. You hear me?
My blood shot hot, but I didn't say the words that were boiling up inside me.
All I said was "I hear."" (p. 133.)
I found Taylor's use of the local dialect very powerful in making the characters believable
and come to life. This helps make the characters more interesting. She also does not "sugar coat" how white and
African-Americans used language back then. She uses the words that were spoken at the time that are not politcally correct
today. Taylor has addressed this issue in her "A Note to the Reader" as well. "I have included characters, incidents,
and language that present life as it was in many parts of the United States before the Civil Rights Movement. Although
there are those who wish to ban my books because I have used language that is painful, I have chosen to use the language that
was spoken during the period, for I refuse to white-wash history."
The plot of the book grows out of Paul's desire to acquire land as good as his father's.
This is very difficult to accomplish during the time for many view Paul's dream as a "man of color" wanting to achieve something
that is for white men only. He is stepping above himself. The story is clearly laid out and organized, from Paul's
childhood until he achieves his dream of acquiring land as an adult.
The setting of the story takes place throughout the South, beginning in Georgia and
ending in Mississippi. Taylor accurately reflects the attitudes and beliefs from both races prevalent during the time
period. When Paul was thirteen, his father drove home the fact that he was "colored" in a very physical way. Paul
and his brother, Robert, who was white, got into a fight and Paul hit Robert's white friends who also got involved in the
fight. Paul's father whipped Paul in front Robert's white friends to drive home the fact that Paul could not strike
anyone who was white. There would be serious consequences in the future if Paul doesn't learn to get his temper under
I enjoyed how this book makes the reader think about what it would have been like to
have lived through this time period as a person of color. It made me wonder what choices I would have made and how I
would have handled the discrimination. It also has several themes that young people should be able to relate to:
relationship between a parent and child, coming to know oneself, the power of friendship and love.
I greatly enjoyed reading this prequel to ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. I have
read all of Taylor's books about the Logan family, and this has been my favorite because you find out in this book how the
family acquired their land and the sacrifices Paul made to accomplish his goal. I admired Paul's determination and intelligence
to achieve his dream.