A Single Shard
by Linda Sue Park, published 2001
“Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo. But you must not tell your body. It must think one hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to way.”
In this lovely, art-inspired children’s book about a potter and his apprentice, the feeling of the way of the ancients comes through loud and strong. The image of the apprentice who serves the master potter for the love of the art is a compelling picture. The tradition that is portrayed, where the apprentice may serve for years without even touching the clay, makes one think about what we have lost as the ages have rolled by.
Everything about this children’s book is filled with the beauty of the Asian culture, from the descriptions of the seasons to the wonderful wisdom of the elder characters in the book. The young orphan boy has so much to learn, and so many great people to learn from…the man he lives with, the potter, the potter’s wife. It’s a feast of great lessons, gently given.
The author of this historical fiction children’s book did extensive research on the process of making the specific type of pottery she describes. This brings a certain level of valuable insight into pottery as an art, in addition to the study of the characters and the life of an apprentice and master. I loved this book. Clean, clear, crisp, and concise. Like a haiku!
Note for homeschooling parents and teachers, there’s also a classroom guide for this book. It fits well with a 6th grade class, although my school library has it tagged for 8th grade. A good book for boys, as the lead character and his two mentors are male. Well, actually, given the fact that it’s historical fiction, everyone is male except for the potter’s wife…That’s how things were then!