Linda Sue Park was a guest in Scholastic's Online Reading Club. With the guidance of thought questions, students and teachers discussed her book A Single Shard. Then Linda Sue Park herself joined in the conversation. Park is the Newbery-winning author several children's books, including When My Name Was Keoko, Seesaw Girl, and The Kite Fighters. A Single Shard tells the story of orphan Tree-ear, who dreams of becoming a potter.
Let's Talk with Linda Sue Park About A Single Shard
Tree-ear is a homeless orphan, but he has all he needs. How does Crane-man provide for him? What does Tree-ear do in return?
Student Response: They live under a bridge, and he works for Min.
Crane-man teaches Tree-ear many lessons about ethical issues, such as honesty. What is a lesson that stands out for you?
Student Response: One thing that really stands out to me is when Crane-man said that when you steal or beg it makes you no better than a dog. Some people work really hard for what you're stealing. When you beg, you're just stealing in another way. From Desiree
Linda Sue Park: Hi Desiree, I love your comment. I think Crane-man would have loved it too, and he would have been glad to hear that you understand what he said!
This book is set in 12th century Korea, but parts of it feel modern. What events or feelings might be the same today?
Student Response: I think it is realistic that Tree-ear, like many other kids, could be wondering and find a friend that could take care of them. From Alex from Illinois
Linda Sue Park: Hi Alex, Thank you for your great comment. I agree with you - I think the most important thing is for a person to find other people to care about, and who will care about them.
Student Response: They still have the same kind of problems as we do. You still have to work really hard to achieve your goal. You have to have a good attitude. And we still get robbed now. So if you really want something you have to work hard. Janelle
Linda Sue Park: Hi Janelle, Wow, those are excellent comments.12th century Korea might have been very different from 21st century America, but people have a lot in common everywhere, don't you think?
Student Response: Still now these days you still have dreams and hopes of doing something, and people still have beliefs like the ones about foxes in A Single Shard. James
Linda Sue Park: Hi James, You're absolutely right - I think having hopes and dreams are part of what makes us human.So are superstitions - no matter where they come from, people are always trying to explain what they can't understand.
Student Response: Well, I believe that in the 12th century the people in the inside felt the same we do now, but the outside was very different compared to what it is today. Mary
Linda Sue Park:Hi Mary, Terrific! That is exactly what I was hoping readers would understand. Daily life was very different in 12th century Korea, but people's emotions were the same in many ways. I agree with you!
Student Response: When people die you may feel bad like Tree-ear did. You might feel like you want to kill yourself. For example my grandma died from being shot, and I felt so bad I did not know what to do, but I will never forget her. Cierra
Linda Sue Park: Hi Cierra, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma. It is the hardest thing in the world to lose someone you love.I am glad she was part of your lifeand I hope that thinking about the good times with her will help cheer you up.Maybe someday you can do something to honor your grandma,like Tree-ear did when he made the vase to honor Crane-man. Take care and best wishes.
The Rock of the Falling Flowers inspires courage. How is Tree-ear courageous? When have you needed to be courageous?
Student Response: Tree-ear shows courage by standing up against the thieves and trying to protect the vases. I've needed to be courageous when I had to stand up for those who couldn't. Cody
Linda Sue Park: Hi Cody,It can be tough to stand up like that when you feel like you're on your own. I'm sure you and Tree-ear could have a very good discussion about courage. Keep up the good work!
Student Response: Tree-ear was very courageous by asking Min when he could make a pot. If I was Tree-ear I would not of done that. I had to be courageous when I showed my mom a 35 in English. My mom told me I had courage so I did not get in trouble.
Linda Sue Park: Hi Allison, I agree with you! I think it tookgreat courage for Tree-ear to ask Min that question, and you are the first person to ever write to me about that. If you keep reading and making those kinds of very smart observations, I am sure you will not have to show your mom a 35 again!
How do you think Tree-ear's character changed from the beginning to the end of the book?
Student Response: I think he changed because he wasn't very brave in the beginning and after a while he became even more brave as the book went on.
Student Response: From the beginning to the end a lot of stuff happens. He gets more courage (not like the beginning - he stays with Crane-man). And further in the book he doesn't run from the fox. He stays there. That was courage. Fernando
Linda Sue Park: Hi Fernando, Great comment - I wanted the fox episode to show how Tree-ear was getting braver. I'm very glad you got that.
More Questions about A Single Shard
Student Question: Hi my name is Emma. After my teacher read this book to my class, I thought, "I wonder why she wrote this book." So when my teacher said we could do this, I wanted to know why you wrote it.
Linda Sue Park: Hi Emma, I wrote the book because I wanted to tell a good story! That's the same reason I write all my books. I love good stories.
Student Question: Do you write a lot of books about vases and pottery after seeing the picture of the vase in the book? Alex From Illinois
Linda Sue Park: Hi Alex, A Single Shard is the only book I wrote about pottery. I also wrote a poem about celadon.
Student Question: How did you get the idea of writing the book? The reason I asked is because its hard for me to think up an idea and write 200 pages about it. Karissa
Linda Sue Park: Hi Karissa, I agree - it IS hard! I got the idea for A Single Shard from reading other books about Korean history. When I'm writing, I try not to think things like, gosh, I have to finish writing this book. Books ARE very long and it's easy to get discouraged. Instead I think to myself, wow, I have this great story idea, and today I'm going to write two pages of it. That's all - just two pages. But if you do that day after day after day... eventually you end up with a book!
Student Question: Why did you have the robbers break the pottery? Why didn't you have them do or take something else? Also, why did you have Crane-Man die? I at least would have Tree-Ear have seen him die because he seemed sad he wasn't there for him. Tyler
Student Question: Why did you have Crane-man die in your story? The reason I wrote this question (or typed it) is because Tree-ear was out on an adventure and you had his step dad (as I like to call him) die. I would have Crane-man still alive, but he would have two broken legs - but then Min's wife would be in the way of the truck and she would be blind. Kenny
Student Question: Why did Crane-Man have to die? At least he died a slow painful death. Crane-Man didn't even have time to teach him how to make his own sandals. David
Linda Sue Park: Dear Tyler, Kenny, and David, Readers ask me this question a lot. I worried about having Crane-man die in the story. I even wrote one version of the ending where he didn't die! But I couldn't make the rest of the story work when I wrote it that way. For Tree-ear to become a potter, he had to be a potter's son, which meant that he had to get adopted by Min. As long as Crane-man was around, that could never happen - Tree-ear would never leave Crane-man. Also, for Tree-ear to grow up and make that beautiful crane vase, he would have to feel very great emotion for Crane-man, which I think is deepened by Crane-man's sad death.
Student Question: Hi. My name is Elijah. We read A Single Shard in my reading class. Are you going to write another book about Tree-Ear?
Linda Sue Park: Hi Elijah, As of now I am not planning a sequel to A Single Shard - but I'd never say never! I do like when readers ask this question, because I think it means they liked Tree-ear and would like to read more about him. I hope they continue his story in their own heads. Thinking about the story after you finish the book - that's an important part of reading.
Student Question: Did you base the character of Min's wife on anyone you know in real life? She seems really great!
Linda Sue Park: I feel lucky to have met a few people who are very kind - who get their greatest happiness from caring for others. Min's wife is a composite of characteristics from those people. I think she's a wonderful person too, and I'm glad you agree!
Student Question: Did you talk to any potters when you were writing A Single Shard?
Linda Sue Park: Yes. I watched potters at work, and asked them questions. Then when I finished writing, I gave the story to a potter who is an expert at making celadon. He read the whole story for me and gave me suggestions for improving it. His name is Po-wen Liu, and I thanked him on the acknowledgments page of the book.
Student Question: If you do write another book about Tree-ear, do you think Min will be nicer and more understanding? Robert
Linda Sue Park: Hi Robert, Interesting question! I think it would be hard for Min to change his grumpy ways, but I also think that having Tree-ear as a son might eventually soften him up a little. Even if he doesn't change, Tree-ear would learn a lot about pottery from Min so he can become a great potter. And he would get lots of affection from Ajima, which would help him put up with Min!
Student Question: Did it take a long time to write the book and research the history, then put in all the facts and publish it? Ashley
Linda Sue Park: Hi Ashley, Yes, all my books take a long time to research. I spend several months researching before I start writing,and in the middle of writing I often have to stop and look up stuff. At my local library, I am one of the best customers! The research takes several months. Each of my books has taken me a different length of time to write - eight months for Seesaw Girl, eight months for Shard, three years for When My Name Was Keoko! The publisher takes another year and a half to work on the book, so altogether each book can take up to three or four years to publish.
Student Question: Were you scared that no would read the book when you first wrote A Single Shard? Ryan
Linda Sue Park: Hi Ryan, Yes, I was worried that young people might not be interested in a story set so long ago in Korea. And I think a lot of times, it's a teacher or librarian who introduces the book to kids who might not have picked it out themselves. I am always very happy when I hear from readers who say that they didn't think they would like the book, but they were surprised to find that they really enjoyed the story.
Student Question: Why did you choose Tree-ear and Crane-man as their names, and why did the story end like it did? Sean
Linda Sue Park: Hi Sean, At first I was going to use Korean names for the characters. But I wanted readers to know that Tree-ear and Crane-man were outcasts, not part of normal Korean society. So I decided to give them weird names to show that. I wanted readers to think, 'Tree-ear? What kind of name is that?!' I hope that by the end of the book, readers get used to their strange names and get to like them anyway.
Questions for Linda Sue Park
How many books have you published that went to the top?
I have published four books so far. I am not sure what you mean by ‘went to the top,' but only one of them won the Newbery! The other books won some other awards, including the Jane Addams Honor Award for the promotion of peace through literature, for When My Name Was Keoko.
How many books have you written?
I have written four books that have already been published. I have several more that will be coming out over the next few years. The first two will be available in the spring. They are picture books for young children and are called The Firekeeper's Son and Mung-mung!
What is the style of your writing? What inspires you to write besides reading? Why do you particularly write about Korea?
Besides reading, I write because I want to explore something. In my first four books, I wanted to explore Korea's history because my parents were born there.
Hello Linda, How do you pronounce your last name "Park?" I heard that Korean names of "Park" and "Pak" are actually the same name in Korea and that it is pronounced more like "pak" (like "pack?") without "r" sound. Do you pronounce your name as "pak," or with "r" just like the English word of "park?" Reiko Dear Reiko: That is an interesting question, Reiko. I thought it was her husband's last name! MegHi Reiko and Meg, ‘Park' is a very common Korean surname. I pronounce it like the word ‘park' in English. And Reiko is right - ‘Pak' and ‘Park' are the same name in Korea, but it usually isn't pronounced like ‘pack' although sometimes people do pronounce it without the ‘r' sound. Meg, it's my name, not my husband's, and he laughs when people call him "Mr. Park" !
Where do you get all your cool ideas? I love your work.
Thank you! I get most of my ideas from reading. But I also get ideas by keeping my eyes and ears open. Ideas are EVERYWHERE - you just have to stay alert!
What are your new books The Firekeeper's Son and Mung-Mung! going to be about?
The Firekeeper's Son is based on an episode from Korean history. It's about a boy whose family is responsible for lighting a signal fire on top of a mountain. Mung-Mung! is a lift-the-flap guessing-game book about animal noises around the world. Here's an example: What kind of animal says mung-mung (in Korean)? gav-gav (Russian)? bo-bo (Hindi)? wow-wow (Spanish)? woof-woof (English)? Then you lift the flap and you can see: IT'S A DOG!
Are you planning on writing any books that aren't about Asian characters?
I have already written one! It's a picture book for younger children, and the main character is a bunny. :-)
If you had a chance to meet another author, who would it be? Vanessa
Hi Vanessa, What a great question! I'm lucky to have met manyauthors,includingKatherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Kate DiCamillo, Christopher Paul Curtis - they've written some of my favorite books, so it was areal thrill for me to meet them. I would love to meet Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling someday.
Hi, my name is Chasity. I wanted to ask you a question. My question is: have you ever had courage in a life or death situation?
Hi Chasity, Life or death, hmmmm... I have been in a couple of car accidents, but neither of them was really 'life or death.' I guess the closest I have come to that is when my son was a baby and was very sick, and my husband and I had to decide how we wanted the doctors to treat him. I did not feel courageous - I felt very very scared. Fortunately the treatment worked and he got better and is now a big healthy teenager. I don't think courage means not being scared - everybody gets scared of things.I thinkhaving couragemeansdoing the best you can even when you're scared, and not letting fear stop you. Tree-ear was afraid of the robbers, but hedid the best he could.
How does it feel to be a famous author and write really good books? Scott
Hi Scott, Being an author is a GREAT job. I get to go to work in my pajamas if I want to. And making up stories is so much fun! Sometimes I get frustrated, and everything I write seems terrible. But that makes it feel even better when I finally do finish a story. Besides writing, my favorite part of being an author is meeting readers and talking about books - I love to talk to people about books, not just my own, but all kinds of books!
Where do you go to relax and think up your books? Kenyai
Hi Kenyai, I often have trouble falling asleep at night, so when I'm lying in bed I think up stories. That's where I do a lot of my thinking. I also get a lot of ideas while I'm reading - sometimes reading someone else's stories will make me think of one of my own.