An orphan boy and a crippled man live together under the bridge of a small Korean village in the twelfth-century. Crane-man and Tree-ear scrounge for food in the village’s rubbish heaps by day. In the evenings, they discuss philosophies encountered throughout their day. For as Crane-man says,
Scholars read the great words of the world. But you and I must learn to read the world itself.
Tree-ear has taken to watching Min, one of the great potters of the village, as he goes about his work. One day, he accidentally breaks a pot, and must work for Min to pay for it.
That incident changes the course of Tree-ear’s life. On a difficult and dangerous journey to present Min’s work at the royal court, Tree-ear learns real courage, and his courage is rewarded.
It amazes me how many different coming-of-age stories I have read. Similar in the fundamental theme, they all greatly differ in the details. I really enjoyed A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park – I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the lessons. Not only the deep lessons of courage, loyalty and duty, but also the other lessons about life in a twelfth-century Korean village, Korean families, Korean beliefs and even Korean pottery.
Reading stories based in other cultures expands our experiences and our understanding of the world. A Single Shard isn’t just a good story, it also shows the similarities and differences of people across time and cultures.