The Silent Lesson of “A Single Shard”

“There were some things that could not be molded into words.”

–Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard

Tree-ear’s sentiment is one that resonated with me as I took a nostalgic journey back through his story. The boy is an orphan who works his way into an apprenticeship of sorts with an aging potter. I won’t say much more about that because I’ll be likely to give away much of the ending.

The novel, which I first read in fourth grade or so, smacks of a fairytale world while never quite being that. As a child, the mix of fairytale and reality left me enraptured. Returning as an adult left me feeling strangely disappointed at first. It seemed like the story was trying to fit two genres at once, the fairytale and loose historical fiction.

However, upon reaching the end of the story, I was just as moved as my younger self was. There’s a certain magic in releasing yourself to the ending. There were some things that could not be molded into words. What seemed like a slow plot and simplistic storytelling turned into a blossoming of the young protagonist into a new stage in his life. He wasn’t all grown up yet. But his life started changing, and it is as if he himself were the pot on the wheel, slowly growing from a lump of clay to a carefully designed work of art.

The story is not slow. It’s methodical. For the child reader, there are enough big words and new concepts to spark interest. For the adult reader, it’s a pretty quick read. Nevertheless,  A Single Shard has a patient pace that forces the reader to breathe deeply and rest in the story of Tree-ear and Min the potter, a moral woven into the very act of reading. Some lessons don’t need words to learn them well.

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