Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Club: A Single Shard

Book Club discussion groups are a great way to get kids excited about books and discussing them. This is one of a series of posts sharing some of my favorite books for Book Club discussions. Please click on the "Book Club" tag to read more.

A Single Shard

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park won the Newbery Medal in 2002. Set in mid-to-late 12th century Korea, this is a fabulous historical fiction story of loss, hard work, adventure, and the meaning of family.

The archaeologist in me must point out my biggest critique of this book: the title! A shard is technically a broken piece of glass, while the correct term for a broken piece of pottery is sherd.


Tree-ear is an orphan who lives under a bridge and is being raised by an elderly cripple named Crane-man. When Tree-ear apprentices himself to the village's master potter, a demanding man named Min, the boy learns the importance of determination, hard work, and artistry.

Reading Level: 6.8
Guided Reading Level: U
Lexile Level: 920L

Big Ideas and Discussion Topics

  • Determination and patience. Min makes Tree-ear undergo a rigorous work process before he even approaches making anything out of the clay. This very gradual, step-by-step process highlights the importance of personal commitment and dedication to learning and mastery.
  • Responding to challenges. Tree-ear faces many difficult situations in the story, including both physical and emotional challenges. These can be great fodder for discussion about the choices he makes.
  • Family and identity. Tree-ear is an orphan, but he loves Crane-man as a father. During the course of the story, he also comes to love Min and his wife. This can be a great springboard for discussing adoptive families.
  • Art and innovation. Pottery forms the backbone of this story, and it provides a great way to talk about invention, creation, and even artistic license.

Suggested Chapter Breakdowns

I usually use four to six sections for Book Club discussions with my students. They meet twice a week (often Tuesdays and Thursdays), which gives us two or three weeks to finish any given round. When I first started I had many more Book Club divisions, but I found that kids had a hard time sustaining interest in a book when it became incredibly drawn out.
  1. Chapters 1-2, pages 1-24
  2. Chapters 3-4, pages 25-48
  3. Chapters 6-8, pages 49-72
  4. Chapters 7-9, pages 73-107
  5. Chapters 10-11, pages 108-130
  6. Chapters 12-13 plus Author's Note, pages 131-152
Or, in four Book Club meetings:
  1. Chapters 1-3, pages 1-37
  2. Chapters 4-6, pages 38-72
  3. Chapters 7-9, pages 73-107
  4. Chapters 10-13 plus Author's Note, pages 108-152
[Please check page numbers against your own editions, as publishers sometimes change the size or shape of the book, which alters the page numbers.]

Do you have a favorite book club book from another country or culture? (Click here for more Book Club recommendations.)


  1. I've actually never read this book, but I love her other work. I am going to have to go grab it from the library. Thank you!

    1. I really like this one, and every year the kids love it too!


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