My Rating: 7/10
Quick Summary: In 12th century Korea, an orphan named Tree-Ear develops a passion for pottery that leads to him working for the local master potter.
I readily admit that I was dragging my feet on this one, because the edition of A Single Shard that I was reading had a lousy cover (not the one pictured above, which is far more appealing) and worse flap copy, not to mention the fact that I'd just read one book about a boy in the Middle Ages (Crispin) and wasn't anxious for another. (Seriously, what is it about the Newbery committee and historical books?)
The book was a bit slow to start, but once I got into it, it was clear how much time and effort Park had put into researching the time and place, and most especially, the techniques that went into making pottery. I think whenever someone is truly passionate about something (in this case, both the author and the main character), it really comes across and can be quite compelling. I've never done any pottery making myself, but I became interested in the techniques as they were discussed.
The story was rather slow paced (especially for a book with less than 200 pages), and there wasn't a whole lot of plot beyond pottery through most of the book, but there was a decent amount of action for the climax, and a creditable level of emotional development for the characters.
In the end, it was a quiet book, and surprisingly subtle without being misaimed in terms of age group. I wouldn't call this one a universal pleaser- its slow pace would turn a good number of kids off- but there's some definite appeal to it, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that this book inspired several children into taking pottery classes.