This book is AMAZING! The narration by Graeme Malcolm was beautiful and moving and entrancing. Or maybe that was the gorgeous writing by Linda Sue Park. It was hard to separate one beautiful thing from another while listening to this book. And it was even harder to break away from. In fact, A Single Shard has inspired me to start a new ranking methodology, with the highest ranking being “Audiobooks So Good I Start Hoping for a Traffic Jam to Make My Commute Longer.” Congratulations, Linda Sue Park, for being the first awardee.** I’m sure you’ll print this out and hang it right next to your Newbery Medal.
A summary, from Linda Sue Park’s webpage:
Tree-ear is an orphan boy in a 12th-century Korean potters’ village. For a long time he is content living with Crane-man under a bridge barely surviving on scraps of food. All that changes when he sees master potter Min making his beautiful pottery. Tree-ear sneaks back to Min’s workplace and dreams of creating his own pots someday. When he accidentally breaks a pot, he must work for the master to pay for the damage. Though the work is long and hard, Tree-ear is eager to learn. Then he is sent to the King’s Court to show the master’s pottery. Little does Tree-ear know that this difficult and dangerous journey will change his life forever.
If this doesn’t sound fascinating to you, it’s because you haven’t read the book. Even my husband, who is currently reading about how the SEALs nabbed Bin Laden (surely the opposite end of the literary spectrum), got so into this story on a short drive we took together, that he asked to borrow the CDs so he could listen to the rest before I returned it to the library.
This is the right way to do historical fiction. By the time I finished the book, I was doing research on celadon and Korea and cranes. I couldn’t help myself. All of the sudden, all of those things were deeply fascinating. I still have a strong desire to go out and buy some beautiful ceramic pots, but I’m afraid they wouldn’t be up to potter Min’s standards, so I hold off.
I was interested to see that Ms. Park is also the author of a number of 39 Clues books. Impressive diversification. Kind of reminds me of Lois Lowry. Not bad company to be in.
**NOTE: To be fair, if I’d thought about it at the time, I would also have granted this august award to Grace Lin for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I know, I know, you’re saying “Enough about that book, already!” But it really was wonderful. You should read it. Or, better yet, listen to it. Today.
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park; Audiobook narrated by Graeme Malcolm
Newbery Medalist – 2002
A.R. Level: 6.6; Middle Grades